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Much of Suit Aimed at Indian Cigarette Sales Is Dismissed
By Corey Kilgannon
A federal judge has dismissed all but one charge in a lawsuit, filed last year by a supermarket mogul who hopes to be the next mayor of New York City, that challenged two Long Island Indian tribes over their longstanding practice of selling tax-free cigarettes from reservation smoke shops.
John A. Catsimatidis, whose holdings include the Gristedes supermarket chain, claimed in the suit that the two tribes illegally undercut his business, and he sought to force Indian retailers to buy cigarettes from wholesalers at the taxed price. He also asked for $20 million from the two tribes’ cigarette retailers, the amount he claims he has lost.
Leaders from the tribes, the Shinnecock and Unkechaug Indian nations, responded by moving to have the claims dismissed.
In a decision rendered on Friday and announced yesterday, Judge Carol Bagley Amon of Federal District Court in Brooklyn dismissed the claim that the non-tax sales “created, fostered and nourished a thriving black market in illegally discounted cigarette sales” and also dismissed charges of corrupt business dealings and unfair competition.
Harry Wallace, chief of the Unkechaug nation and a lawyer who owns a smoke shop on a reservation in Mastic, said yesterday that his tribe was pleased with the ruling.
But Judge Amon did not dismiss the entire suit, finding that advertisements calling the cigarettes tax-free were misleading because cigarette sales are not actually tax-free under state law, and that they were “likely to mislead the consumer into believing that he or she need not pay taxes on purchased cigarettes.”
Mr. Catsimatidis said he would persevere with the suit. “Everyone has to pay their taxes, and Indians must charge tax on cigarettes when they sell to non-Indians,” he said.
The state sets minimum price levels for retailers and imposes a sales tax of $1.50 a pack. But historically, the state has not collected cigarette taxes from tribes within its borders because they are considered sovereign nations, so Indian-owned smoke shops have long sold cigarettes at far lower prices than non-Indian competitors.
Many Smokers Avoid Cigarette Tax, Report Finds
By Sewell Chan
New York City loses more than $40 million in revenue each year from the people who avoid paying cigarette taxes, according to a report [pdf] released today by the city’s Independent Budget Office.
In 2002, the state and city each raised its cigarette tax to $1.50 per pack, for a total tax of $3 per pack in the five boroughs. Experts have credited the higher tax with helping to reduce smoking citywide; the city’s smoking rate dropped to 19.2 percent from 21.5 percent in the year following the tax increase.
But the higher taxes also increase New Yorkers’ incentives to buy cigarettes from lower-tax areas, including Indian reservations, and from Web sites that claim to sell “tax-free” cigarettes — even though, with few exceptions, “no cigarettes available to New Yorkers are legally free from taxation by the city and state,” the report says.
Unsurprisingly, surveys have shown that most New York smokers buy their cigarettes from convenience and grocery stores, supermarkets, pharmacies, gas stations and discount stores. But a sizable proportion — about 27 percent of New York City smokers — sometimes or always buy their cigarettes from “undertaxed” sources, including out-of-state retailers, duty-free stores, mail-order companies that take orders over the phone and Internet and unlicensed vendors who sell bootlegged or counterfeit cigarettes on the street. Some smokers even drive all the way to the South, where cigarette taxes are particularly low, to buy their cigarettes.
The 2002 increase in the city tax to $1.50 from 8 cents lifted the city’s revenues from the cigarette tax to almost $160 million from less than $30 million — even after accounting for the fact that 46 percent of city cigarette tax revenue is redirected to the state.
That’s the good news. But the budget office — using a formula that considered annual cigarette consumption by city residents and the potential revenue from those cigarettes — calculated that in 2006, the city should have collected $167 million in cigarette taxes and instead took in a little more than $123 million. The budget estimate estimated that $43 million in city cigarette taxes went uncollected last year.
In February of this year, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg again proposed raising the city’s cigarette tax. “While the mayor’s proposal to again increase the local cigarette tax assumes that higher prices will further discourage New Yorkers from smoking, it may also encourage more city smokers to seek under-taxed cigarettes,” the report concludes.
Cigarettes Are Costly, but Often Less So in Chinatown
By Angelica Medaglia
All over Chinatown, cigarette butts dot the sidewalks: blue, white and brown ends labeled with names like Seven Wolves in Chinese, Shuanxshi and Yes in English. But the most common name is Marlboro.
The stubs are tangible evidence of the ready supply of illegal cigarettes in Chinatown, available at sidewalk stalls and variety stores, where they typically sell for $4 a pack — as much as $3.50 less than those sold legally. They include Chinese brands and knockoffs of popular American brands smuggled into the United States, all untaxed.
Under the Manhattan Bridge, a popular shopping place for many immigrants from Fujian Province, there are illegal cigarettes for sale amid the shopping stalls, the private bus operators, the makeshift employment agencies and the booths where international calling cards are sold. Cautious vendors sell cigarettes mostly to customers they already know: people who speak Fujianese, people who work in restaurants, people waiting for buses to take them to jobs in Washington or Richmond, Va.
Neither the merchants who sell them nor the people who buy them are willing to speak publicly about the black market. But several smokers who said they had smoked counterfeit Marlboros or Chinese brands said that they bought them because they were cheap; some said they thought they were buying legitimate brands at bargain prices.
The smuggling and sale of illicit Chinese cigarettes has long been a challenge for law enforcement agencies in New York. And it appears to be growing, but reliable statistics on the volume of the trade are not available.
“It is a problem,” said Joseph Green, a spokesman for the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms, Tobacco and Explosives. “Eight years ago, say, there were only 100 investigations, and now we have several hundred” in New York State.
In a raid at a warehouse in Corona, Queens, in August, federal and local authorities found 600,000 cartons of cigarettes, many marked “made in China”; 125,000 counterfeit tax stamps from Kentucky, Virginia and New York; and $350,000 in cash.
In April, the police seized 243,000 cartons of counterfeit Marlboros and Newports from China as they were being unloaded from a van into a self-storage facility in College Point, Queens.
Philip Morris USA, the nation’s largest tobacco company — whose Marlboro brand is one of the most popular among bootleggers — helps law enforcement officers distinguish between genuine brands and counterfeit ones by checking obvious and more subtle features in the packaging.
Counterfeiting is so prevalent that the British American Tobacco company, the world’s second largest publicly traded tobacco group, estimates the total loss of sales incurred by tobacco companies at roughly $4 billion per year.
And some tobacco companies have started researching electronic chips and other technology that would help customs authorities at airports sort the legitimate brands from the fake.
So far this year, the police, in precincts throughout the city, have received about 240 complaints about contraband cigarettes from cigarette retailers and customers. Other numbers tell a similar story about the prevalence of illicit cigarettes. A survey conducted in 2006 by the state’s Department of Health found that nearly half of the smokers interviewed in New York City said that they had bought illegal cigarettes within the year.
The black market in cigarettes in New York is run largely by Chinese and Russian groups, according to Mr. Green, of the Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms, Tobacco and Explosives.
Yet, though Chinatown offers a large market for contraband cigarettes, smoking rates among Asians are lower than for any other racial or ethnic group in New York, according to the city’s health department. Beyond the legal issues, there are health concerns. Contraband cigarettes have been shown in studies to contain higher levels of toxic metals, like lead, than legitimate brands do.
In Chinatown, Louisa Lam works with people trying to kick their smoking habits at Gouverneur Healthcare Services and hears reasons that keep the market thriving.
There was a high school student who said he bought counterfeit Marlboros because he did not want to ask his mother, a home health aide, for the money for real ones.
And there are some older people, suffering from smoking-related illnesses, who buy Chinese brands in the belief that they have less nicotine than the American ones.
“Most of them will tell you it is not as strong,” Ms. Lam said of the flavor of the Chinese brands. “But nobody really knows what’s in the cigarettes.”
About a year and a half ago, Hunter College began a smoking-cessation program intended especially for Chinese restaurant workers, but the program has had few takers. Recruiters visited about 500 restaurants in Chinatown, Queens and Brooklyn, but only about 65 smokers signed up for nine sessions of telephone counseling and a $90 reward.
One restaurant worker, Toiyan Auyeung, who lives in Pittsburgh and was in New York recently awaiting a bus to Maryland for a restaurant job, said, through an interpreter, that he did not want to buy illegal cigarettes and that he relied on a friend to buy him real Marlboros in Chinatown. “I can’t figure out,” he said, “which ones are real and which are fake.”
A Call to Ban Smoking in Cars (With Children)
By Sewell Chan
Under a City Council proposal, New York City would prohibit smoking in cars where children are riding, joining the ranks of Arkansas, Louisiana, Puerto Rico, Bangor, Me., and Rockland County, N.Y., where similar legislation has been passed.
The proposal, which Councilman James F. Gennaro, a Queens Democrat, plans to formally announce on Thursday, would prohibit smoking in cars where a child under 18 is present. Fines would range from $200 to $2,000, depending on the number of violations. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who pushed through a ban on indoor smoking in 2003, and his administration have not said whether they will support the proposal.
Mr. Gennaro, in an interview, noted research that shows that children inhale and are harmed by second-hand smoke even when the windows in a car are open. “It is my belief that people’s right to privacy doesn’t extend to force-feeding their children cigarettes within the confines of the car,” he said.
In 2006, Arkansas became the first state in the country to ban smoking
in cars with children present. The law applies to children who are under
age 6 and weigh less than 60 pounds, who were already required to wear
a safety seat. The Louisiana ban, also enacted in 2006, applies to children
12 and younger. The Puerto Rican law, which took effect this year, applies
to children 13 and younger.
In January, as Pam Belluck of The Times reported, the City Council in Bangor, Maine’s third largest city, approved a ban on smoking in any motor vehicle where anyone under 18 is a passenger. The smoker can be fined $50.
The County Legislature in Rockland County passed a similar bill in May, as Peter Applebome has reported.
In New York City, Mr. Gennaro’s bill will probably be taken up by the City Council next Wednesday, although it could take months for hearings and votes to be held. Mr. Gennaro last year proposed raising the minimum age for buying cigarettes to 19, from 18, but the Bloomberg administration did not support the measure and it did not pass.
Kathleen Dachille, an assistant professor who directs the Legal Resource Center for Tobacco Regulation, Litigation and Advocacy at the University of Maryland School of Law, said in a phone interview that courts have generally looked favorably on banning smoking where children are concerned. For example, states have banned smoking in homes where foster children — who are under the state’s care and protection — live. Some family judges have made smoking cessation a precondition of child custody as well.
Professor Dachille said she was unaware of legal challenges to laws banning smoking in cars with children, but added, “I think the public health community and tobacco control community are treading in some dangerous waters, because people’s zone of privacy is important.”
Mr. Gennaro’s smoking proposal has been the subject of reports in The New York Post and The New York Sun. The Sun quoted Mr. Bloomberg as saying this year, in response to the Rockland County bill, “If it’s a child in the car, who doesn’t have the ability to speak up and protect themselves, then society does start to have an interest.” According to The Sun, the mayor added, “We do have a responsibility to provide a health environment for our children and I would just urge anybody, if you have children at home, don’t smoke at home, don’t smoke in your car with your child; you really are damaging your child’s health.”
Bowing to Pressure, Disney Bans Smoking in Its Branded Movies
By Brooks Barnes
The Walt Disney Company said it would ban cigarettes in its family films and discourage it in others, a pioneering but largely symbolic move that comes as pressure mounts on Hollywood to kick its smoking habit.
The company’s decision to prohibit smoking in Disney-branded films breaks ground in Hollywood, even if there was not much tobacco use depicted in its filmed entertainment to begin with. Until now, the other big studios have chosen to pressure filmmakers behind the scenes, or include antismoking public service announcements before films that depict tobacco use.
“This is good for the perception of Disney, but the primary reason is that cigarette smoking is a hazard and we should avoid depicting it in movies and on television,” said Disney’s chief executive, Robert A. Iger, in an interview.
Disney’s action comes amid increasing pressure from advocacy groups and regulators for media companies to purge movies of cigarettes. In May, the Motion Picture Association of America announced that portrayals of smoking would be considered alongside sex and violence in assessing the suitability of movies for young viewers. Films that appear to glamorize smoking will risk a more restrictive rating.
Mr. Iger said in a letter to Representative Edward J. Markey, Democrat of Massachusetts, dated July 25 that Disney would also “discourage depictions of cigarette smoking” in pictures released by its Touchstone and Miramax units. Last month, Mr. Markey, chairman of the subcommittee on telecommunications, held hearings on the effects of movie images on children.
Mr. Iger also pledged to work with theater owners to encourage antismoking public service announcements, or P.S.A.’s. However, Mr. Iger added in the letter, “Cigarette smoking is a unique problem and this P.S.A. effort is not a precedent for any other issue.”
According to the American Legacy Foundation, 90 percent of all films depict smoking, with three-quarters of movies rated G, PG or PG-13 featuring tobacco use.
Dan Glickman, chairman of the Motion Picture Association, an industry group, said “any effort to address tobacco’s influence on kids in this country is welcome.”
Panel Accord on Increasing Cigarette Tax
By Robert Pear
WASHINGTON — Leaders of the Senate Finance Committee reached agreement Friday on a bipartisan plan calling for a big increase in the cigarette tax to pay for a $35 billion expansion of the Children’s Health Insurance Program over the next five years.
The agreement, probably to be approved next week by the committee, sets the stage for a confrontation with President Bush, who proposed a much smaller increase, $5 billion over five years. House Democrats favor a much larger increase, $50 billion over five years..
Senator Max Baucus, Democrat of Montana and chairman of the Finance Committee, said, “This plan will get coverage to three million more low-income children — more than a third of the kids who are uninsured today.”
Under the proposal, the federal excise tax on cigarettes would be abruptly increased by 61 cents a pack, to $1 a pack. The plan calls for proportional increases for other tobacco products.
Renewal of the children’s insurance program, which is set to expire on Sept. 30, is the most important health care issue facing Congress this year, lawmakers of both parties say.
Debate on the program provides a foretaste of a much larger struggle over the future of the nation’s health care system, as Mr. Bush and Democrats argue about the proper role of government and private insurance.
The Senate plan was negotiated by Mr. Baucus and Senators Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, the senior Republican on the Finance Committee; John D. Rockefeller IV, Democrat of West Virginia; and Orrin G. Hatch, Republican of Utah.
Mr. Grassley said the agreement would refocus the program on low-income children. It would reduce payments to the states for coverage of children with family incomes exceeding three times the poverty level. (The poverty level is $20,650 for a family of four.)
Under current law, the federal government provides $5 billion a year to states for the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which covered 7.4 million people at some time in the last year. The bipartisan Senate plan would add $35 billion, bringing the five-year total to $60 billion. House Democrats, by adding $50 billion to the current level of spending, would increase the total to $75 billion.
Mr. Bush, by contrast, has proposed an increase of $5 billion and has denounced the Democratic proposals as a step toward “government-run health care” for all.
For several weeks, the White House has been predicting a showdown with Congress over the program, which was created in 1997 with broad bipartisan support to insure children in families who have too much income to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to afford private insurance.
Under the Senate agreement, states could use information from food stamps and other assistance programs to locate and enroll youngsters eligible for the Children’s Health Insurance Program. States could also use the child health program to cover the costs of prenatal care for pregnant women.
But federal officials could not grant additional waivers to the states for coverage of adults. About 670,000 adults were covered last year as a result of such waivers, some of which were granted or renewed by the Bush administration.
Earlier this week, before seeing details of the Senate plan, some White House officials were hinting at the possibility of a veto.
In a joint statement, Senators Grassley and Hatch said such threats were “disappointing, even a little unbelievable.”
Mr. Grassley said the Republicans had done a good job by limiting the increase in spending to $35 billion. The 2008 budget resolution — a blueprint for spending approved by both houses of Congress — allowed an increase up to $50 billion, he noted.
Supporters of a higher cigarette tax said it would discourage smoking, particularly among young people. But economists say the tax is highly regressive and falls more heavily on lower-income people, among whom smoking is more prevalent.
City Smokers’ Ranks Drop 19%, Study Says
By Anthony Ramirez
The city’s department of health, citing a combination of high taxes, workplace limits and $10 million in grim television advertising, said yesterday that the number of smokers in New York City had declined by 240,000 in the last five years.
That change represents the sharpest drop since the city began keeping records in 1993, and one of the steepest declines in the nation since 1965, when the surgeon general first warned Americans about the dangers of smoking.
“When we look at the U.S. data overall, from 1965 to the present, this is faster than the United States as a whole in any period,” said Jennifer Ellis, the city health official who helped direct the study.
City researchers, writing in a widely followed publication of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said the share of the city’s residents who smoked had dropped by 19 percent during the period of the study.
They said that in 2002, about 1,305,000 city residents smoked, or about 21.6 percent of the adult population, and that in 2006, about 1,065,000 residents, or 17.5 percent, smoked. The study was based on interviews with 10,000 city residents and used the same measures that the C.D.C. uses. The sharpest drops were in the Bronx, where smoking dropped from 25.2 percent of the population to 19 percent, and in Manhattan, where the rate dropped from 21.2 percent to 16.1 percent. Staten Island was flat, at 27.3 percent in 2002 and 27.2 percent in 2006.
Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, the commissioner of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, said in a telephone interview, “The big picture is that if you are willing to do the right thing and take political risks as Mayor Bloomberg did” with curbs on smoking in public places, “you can get enormous health benefits.”
Moreover, Dr. Frieden said, the administration will continue to press for higher cigarette taxes of 50 cents more per pack. Adjusted for inflation, he said, a pack is actually 60 cents cheaper now than when taxes were last raised in 2002.
At that time, New York City increased the excise tax on cigarettes from 8 cents to $1.50 per pack. New York State also raised its excise tax from $1.11 to $1.50. Both resulted in the highest combined city/state tax in the United States at the time.
The tax increases raised the average price of a pack from $5.20 to $6.85. The city’s revenue from cigarette taxes has declined to $120 million this year from $123 million in 2005.
Councilman Tony Avella, Democrat of Queens, who has clashed with Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg about smoking curbs in restaurants, said he would oppose higher taxes.
“People who smoke are addicted,” he said. “All you succeed in doing is making addicts pay more in taxes.”
Dr. Frieden said the city would continue to buy television advertising. “The tobacco industry is spending at least $400 million in New York City alone for marketing and promotion,” he said. Even if the city and state spent $20 million annually, he said, “We would still be outspent 20 to 1.”
Bill Phelps, a spokesman for Philip Morris USA, the nation’s largest tobacco company, declined to comment.
The health department researchers, writing in the most recent issue of the C.D.C.’s morbidity and mortality report, said the rapid drop in smoking in the city represented a continuation and an acceleration of long-term trends.
The drop, they said, represents as many as 80,000 fewer premature deaths from cancer and other smoking-related diseases, if the smokers quit the habit permanently.
The researchers attributed the most recent drop in the smoking rate to the 2006 television campaign highlighting the physical ravages of smoking.
The commercials ran on broadcast and cable channels. The researchers said that the typical New York viewer would see the city’s antismoking ads, called “Nothing Will Ever Be The Same,” as many as 110 times over the course of a year.
Moreover, the researchers said that separate research suggested that 9 of 10 city smokers had seen the ads.
[See analysis in more detail at http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5624a4.htm]
New Jersey Senate Panel Supports Penalty for Smoking in Cars With Children Aboard
By Ronald Smothers
TRENTON — Smoking in New Jersey has been banned from the workplace, public buildings, bars, restaurants and even large swaths of the casino floors in Atlantic City. The next frontier is the family car with children aboard.
Under a measure passed unanimously Thursday by the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee, anyone caught smoking while a passenger 16 years old or younger is in the vehicle would be charged with a disorderly offense punishable by a $100 fine.
“There is no more important law enforcement responsibility than protecting children,” said State Senator Raymond J. Lesniak, a Democrat of Union County who sponsored the measure. “And there is no worse thing you can do to children’s health than to have them closed up in a car where someone is smoking.”
The measure would make smoking with a child in the car a primary violation of the state’s traffic codes, allowing police officers to stop such drivers and give them tickets.
If approved by the full Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Jon S. Corzine, the measure would make New Jersey the third state — after Arkansas and Louisiana — to impose such a ban. In Arkansas, however, the ban applies to those driving with children 6 and younger, and in Louisiana, 13 and younger.
In New Jersey, only one town, Keyport, in Monmouth County has a ban, which was approved in April.
Even as legislators approved the measure, which most said was likely to be enacted, they expressed some ambivalence. Senator Barbara Buono, a Democrat from Edison, who ultimately approved the ban, wondered aloud, “I don’t know if this is the best way to deal with parental behavior.”
Antismoking activists in New Jersey and nationally applauded the bill as a recognition of the harmful effects of secondhand smoke, which has driven much of the legislation aimed at banning smoking in most public places and many private ones as well.
Regina Carson, president of the New Jersey Group Against Smoking Pollution, known as GASP, said that this bill addresses the needs of infants and toddlers who cannot communicate their distress at smoke and teenagers afraid to confront their parents or other adults about their discomfort.
“This provides a consistent message about the dangers of second-hand smoke and smoking,” Ms. Carson said. “Children are taught in school, or by public service announcements, that smoking and secondhand smoke are bad for you.”
Dr. John Banzhaf, executive director of Action on Smoking and Health, a 40-year-old national anti-smoking group, said that quality-of-life measures, like smoking bans when children are present, were an outgrowth of recent moves to ban smoking by foster parents, caring for children who are ultimately a state responsibility.
“Six or eight months ago it would have been impossible to get such a bill through a state legislature,” Dr. Banzhaf said. “But the ban on foster parents has made it more likely.”
But Gary Nolan, the United States regional representative for the Smoker’s Club, an international group that seeks to assert private property rights in countering smoking bans, said he saw “big brother, big pharma” and no end to harmful social engineering behind such bills.
Mr. Nolan said that the concern about secondhand smoke was “junk science” that cited levels of harmful substances in smoke that did not reach levels recognized as dangerous by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Among drivers, reaction mirrored the ambivalence expressed by legislators.
Phil Volpe, a nonsmoker, who was seated at a Starbucks in Pennington with his 10-year-old daughter, Erin, said, “It is a little bit big brother, but the health and safety of a child is more important than big brother.”
And Erin, who said that she had just completed her school’s DARE course on the prevention of alcohol, tobacco and drug use, was firmly in favor of the ban as well.
“Smoking could distract someone, and they could miss a stop sign or something,” she said.
And there was a question of enforcement.
Sgt. Michael F. Cseremsak of the Hopewell Township Police Department questioned whether officers would enforce the law.
Using a hand-held cellphone, Sergeant Cseremsak noted, was a secondary traffic violation, meaning that officers could not stop drivers for that violation alone, but could cite them if they were stopped for some other infraction like speeding.
“Does this cause hazardous or careless driving?” said the officer, who said he occasionally smoked a cigar, though never at home or in a car. “I don’t think so. It’s really borderline, and I just wonder how far we are going to go regulating people’s lives.”
Unsafe at Any Level [CLASH Note: Warning- Misleading Headline]
By Op-Ed Contributor Michael Siegel, professor of social and behavioral sciences at Boston University
ACCORDING to a report released last week by the Harvard School of Public Health, cigarette companies have been steadily increasing the nicotine yield of their cigarettes — the report describes an average total increase of 11 percent from 1998 to 2005.
Anti-smoking groups have seized on the report as evidence that the Food and Drug Administration must begin regulating tobacco products.
A steady and significant increase in nicotine in cigarettes over the past eight years or so certainly seems worrisome. It sounds as though companies like Philip Morris, which makes Marlboros, are secretly and deceptively increasing the nicotine in their cigarettes and, apparently, lying about it (since they deny the assertions of the report), all in an effort to increase the addictive potential of their cigarettes and harm the public’s health.
There are, however, a number of problems here.
First, though I don’t dispute the report’s assertion that overall nicotine yields in cigarettes have increased, this does not appear to be the case for Marlboro, the leading cigarette brand that commands over 40 percent of the market.
Using the data on nicotine yields of Marlboro cigarettes provided by Philip Morris to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health for 1997 through 2006, I conducted my own analysis of the trends in Marlboro nicotine yields.
The average nicotine yield of 16 Marlboro brands consistently reported for the entire time period was 1.81 milligrams in 1997; in 2006, it was also 1.81 milligrams. Thus, the average nicotine yield of these cigarettes in 2006 was exactly the same as in 1997, nine years earlier.
Second, an increase in nicotine yields does not necessarily mean an increase in the harm to smokers. It is well documented that smokers compensate for changes in nicotine levels to get a relatively constant nicotine dose.
This is why “light” cigarettes are not safer products. The nicotine levels in each cigarette may be lower, but smokers simply smoke more of them, negating the potential benefits of reduced nicotine levels. Indeed, smoking many “light” cigarettes is every bit as dangerous, if not more so, because of the increased exposure to other pollutants in cigarettes, than smoking fewer “regular” cigarettes.
Similarly, if nicotine yields increase, smokers might be expected to compensate by smoking slightly less. This could actually have a marginally positive health benefit if it reduces overall cigarette consumption.
Third, tobacco companies are not necessarily doing anything wrong if they are, in fact, increasing nicotine yields. The paradox of “light” cigarettes demonstrates that reducing nicotine yields is actually the last thing we would want — it would, again, result only in people smoking more, and thus increasing tar delivery and the resulting carcinogenic health effects.
The nicotine in cigarettes is indeed a public health problem. But anti-smoking groups have drawn the wrong conclusion from the Harvard report: the problem isn’t whether or not nicotine levels are increasing; it’s that this deadly, addictive product is available in the first place.
For the past two years, public health groups — led by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids — have lobbied for passage of legislation that would grant the F.D.A. the authority to regulate tobacco products; shockingly, this bill, which Senator Edward Kennedy is preparing to re-introduce in the next few weeks, would expressly preclude the F.D.A. from simply removing nicotine from cigarettes.
It remains unclear why public health groups would support such a provision, though presumably it’s their attempt to appease Philip Morris, whose support is deemed necessary to get the proposed legislation through Congress.
It’s not enough to regulate the varying degrees of nicotine in cigarettes.
Ultimately, there’s only one way to deal with the addictive effects of
nicotine, especially on children: grant the F.D.A. the authority to get
nicotine out of cigarettes altogether. Anti-smoking groups shouldn’t settle
for anything less.
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ADS TURN TV INTO AN 'EWW'TUBE
By Columnist Andrea Peyser
IT'S enough to make me take up smoking again.
You see the ads every morning on NY1, airing as regularly as a cigarette addict needs a fix.
The anti-tobacco ads put out by the city Health Department are as grotesque as open-heart surgery performed without anesthesia.
There's video of a beating, diseased heart. It's followed by an image of discolored lungs. There's a mouth eaten away by disease. And a throat with a purplish tumor growing from it.
I get it. Smoking is bad.
But this is sick.
For the last few months, Health Commissioner and chief nanny Dr. Thomas Frieden has ratcheted up an anti-smoking blitz to the point of nausea.
One morning, as one of the commercials came on, my gaze fell on the 9-year-old with whom I share my world. She tried to hide under the sofa.
I can explain to my kid why people simply should not smoke. But this campaign goes too far.
A check of parents assures me I'm not alone.
Anne Townsend, a Brooklyn mother, clicked on the tube to catch up on Spitzer.
As she watched, horrified, her girls, 3 and 7, mutely stared at the set, terrified.
"I had to explain to them that I think smoking is terrible," said Townsend. "And yet I don't want them to think that their friends are going to have these horrible things happen to them."
Beth, mother of kids, 4 and 8 years old, said, "I think it's horrifying!
"No one thinks everyone should go out and smoke, but the message is lost.
"To a child, it's the picture of a monster."
Sarah Perl, assistant commissioner of tobacco control, told me that since Feb. 25 the ads have logged just seven complaints, while hot-line calls from smokers who aim to quit have jumped 400 percent.
These ads are set to run through the end of the month.
A news broadcast would not post pictures of medical atrocities without warning. But these X-rated ads run without a rating.
The Health Department needs to toss them out with the Marlboro Man.
WHEEZER PLEASER: CIG-TAX HIKE NIXED
By Fredric U. Dicker
ALBANY - New York's smokers can exhale - now that Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno has vowed to reject a call to double the state's $1.50-a- pack cigarette tax.
"I'm not supportive of it," Bruno (R-Rensselaer) said yesterday, just one day after he was quoted in The Buffalo News as opening the door to a cigarette-tax hike by saying, "I'm going to review that - and very diligently."
Bruno's comments came after a push for higher cigarette taxes by the Center for a Tobacco Free New York, a coalition of health-care groups.
The coalition's director, Russell Sciandra, said a $1.50-a-pack hike would raise $500 million for state coffers - and eventually cut the number of smokers in the state by as many as 1 million.
The state raised cigarette taxes to $1.50 a pack in 2002, on top of the $1.50-a-pack tax charged separately by New York City.
And the state and the city each imposed an additional sales tax on the total cost of the cigarettes.
ADS BLOWING SMOKE
DOUBT ON CIGS' LINK TO ILL KIDS
By Bill Sanderson
Three sick children portrayed in City Hall's newest anti-cigarette ad may not be victims of tobacco smoke after all.
The footage of the children came from photo-agency archives, the Health Department said in a statement.
"The children pictured in this ad are real patients, suffering from conditions that have been clearly associated with exposure to secondhand smoke," the statement said.
"The children are not presented as individual victims of environmental tobacco smoke. We do not know their individual medical histories."
Paula Alex, CEO of the Advertising Educational Foundation, said, "That is not necessarily truthful advertising."
Jan Wicks, a University of Arkansas expert in advertising ethics, added, "I would have tried to find children who actually did have illnesses due to secondhand smoke."
The ad - the latest in the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene's two-year anti-smoking campaign - hit the air last week.
It shows a little girl having her ear checked, a boy wearing an oxygen mask, and another boy whose lungs are being ventilated.
"When you smoke around kids, you expose them to thousands of chemicals that trigger severe health problems like painful ear infections, crippling asthma, deadly pneumonia," says the voiceover.
Wicks said that government agencies have a special responsibility to be truthful in advertising, and that the ad probably should include a disclaimer explaining that secondhand smoke didn't sicken the children.
"It's in the best interests of government and the public to bend over backward to be accurate and clear in all communications," Wicks said.
Legally, the ad is probably in the clear since it doesn't specifically claim the anonymous children were sickened by cigarettes, said John Feldman, an advertising-law expert with the Reed Smith firm in Washington.
"I don't believe there is a representation being made . . . other than secondhand smoke can cause these conditions, or does cause these conditions," Feldman said.
There's little doubt about the science of the ad, drawn from a 2006 report by the US surgeon general that said secondhand smoke can cause children to suffer respiratory problems, ear infections and asthma.
The ad doesn't mention the most chilling finding - that tobacco smoke can cause sudden infant death syndrome.
Since the city began running its graphic anti-smoking ads in 2006, calls to the 311 help line by people seeking to quit have more than doubled, to 46,000 last year, said Sarah Perl, an assistant commissioner of health.
This year, the city plans to spend $10 million on the TV ad campaign. "The city is very committed to this approach," Perl said.
BOOTLEGGING BUTTS BOOSTS TERROR: POL
By Samuel Goldsmith
The widespread illegal sale of cigarettes in the United States is pouring millions of dollars into overseas terror organizations Hamas and Hezbollah, Rep. Anthony Weiner warned yesterday.
Weiner (D-Qns./B'klyn) said he will introduce new legislation this week to stop the growing trade, which sent $1.5 million to the two militant groups between 1996 to 2000 - arguing that the black market for cigarettes has become a national security issue.
"We must crack down on the illegal sale of tobacco, which gives terrorists and criminals the ability to raise more money," said Weiner.
Weiner's legislation would toughen the penalty for illegal cigarette sales from a misdemeanor to a felony, making it a federal offence. It would also ban the United States Postal Service from shipping tobacco products.
SMOKE & MIRRORS
BUTTS, LIES AND PUBLIC HEALTH
Op-Ed by Jeff Stiers (associate director of the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH.org))
THE days of deception on the health risks of cigarettes aren't over after all - although now the distortion's coming from the "good guys."
For decades, the industry-funded Tobacco Institute denied the harmful consequences of smoking and did a great disservice to public health. Today, however, it's anti-smoking advocates spreading the disinformation - overstating certain risks. But - because such deception undermines the credibility of all public-health work - they're being called on it by one of their own.
A startling study by Dr. Michael Siegel of Boston University's School of Public Health is pointing the finger at the well-intentioned likes of Action on Smoking and Health, the politically powerful Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and New York City's Department of Health.
In a study published this week in the journal Epidemiologic Perspectives & Innovations, Siegel warns that these groups are wildly inflating the health risks of exposure to second-hand smoke. In doing so, they tarnish the very credibility that the public-health community must have in order to save lives.
Siegel is no friend of Big Tobacco - he's a vocal opponent of smoking and a supporter of smoke-free workplace rules. Indeed, it was his place as a leading member of the tobacco-control community that compelled him to publish his findings that some groups are harming the movement's credibility by overstating the dangers of short-term exposure to environmental tobacco smoke (ETS).
There is evidence that long-term, high-dose ETS exposure increases the risk of heart disease and heart attack. And there is speculation that even short-term exposure may be unsafe to those with severe coronary artery disease. But the evidence does not support the claim that more than 100 groups are wantonly making - which is that acute, transient exposure to ETS increases heart-attack risk in healthy individuals.
The lack of evidence hasn't stopped Commissioner Thomas Frieden at the city Health Department, which is buying ads in The New York Times claiming that "just 30 minutes of exposure to second-hand smoke produces some of the same physical reactions that would occur from long-term smoking, and increases the risk of heart disease in non-smokers."
The "evidence" behind that assertion is so flimsy that it would be laughed at if it supported the finding that smoking is less dangerous than we once thought. The clear implication is that some anti-smoking activists have adopted an "ends justifies the means" approach in pursuit of their noble cause.
This is what makes Siegel's report so troubling. No longer can we rely on the public-health establishment for scientifically accurate information. They'll fudge the numbers if they have to, so long as it promotes their overall agenda - in this case, the drive to outlaw smoking in all public places.
Even more disturbing is that some in the tobacco-control community are attacking those raising questions. Siegel was banned from the primary tobacco listserv for simply sharing his dissenting views. And he's not the only one. UCLA epidemiologist Dr. James Enstrom has been personally vilified for, in his words, "questioning the lethality of ETS, such as a claim in the 2006 Surgeon General's Report," which alleges that ETS kills about 50,000 Americans per year.
Science eventually catches up with those who hyperbolize about risks, and the public learns to disregard them. It would be tragic to see some public-health advocates lose the mantle of sound science and end up going the way of the old Tobacco Institute.
Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States and needs our urgent attention. Overstating the case may help the advocates win this political battle but at significant cost to the overall public-health war.
REALTY SMOKE ALARM
By Angela Montefinise
Where there's smoke, there's ire.
Apartment dwellers across the city are fuming over secondhand smoke seeping into their homes, sparking an increasingly popular movement to snuff out cigarettes in private dwellings.
Over the last few years, landlords and co-op boards at several buildings - including a 20-unit walkup at 341 W. 54th St. - have started rejecting smokers.
"We're a small, old building in Hell's Kitchen, and when one person smokes, everyone in the building smokes," said co-op president Deborah Constantine. "It's the kind of thing that imposes on everyone."
The demand for smoker-free buildings is increasing as "the body of evidence exposing secondhand smoke as a toxin is increasing," said Joanne Koldare, founder of New York Coalition for a Smoke-free City.
Russell Miller, managing director at realty firm City Habitats, estimated that "between 5 and 10 percent of buildings in the city are actively nonsmoking" - a far cry from five years ago, when the Lincoln Towers co-op tried to ban smoking, but had to back down after a bitter battle with tenants.
"It's an option that more people are looking for, even smokers who don't like to smoke in their apartments," Koldare said.
Koldare's coalition is launching a smoking prevention program in the next few weeks to educate landlords and tenant groups about ways they can legally go smoke-free.
"So many landlords, and even tenants, think that there's a constitutional right to smoke, or [that] smokers fall under a protected class," she said. "They don't. Landlords can make policies that say no smoking, the same as no pets."
"For nonsmokers, the smell of secondhand smoke is disgusting," said Cassandra Sweet, 40, who moved out of her Williamsburg apartment in April because of it.
"We kept the windows open, we had fans going," said Sweet, who has a 2-year-old son. "Nothing worked. It permeated every crack. It took over the entire apartment."
Last year, a precedent-setting New York civil-court decision said second-hand smoke can break the "warrantee of habitability," and residents can break their leases if landlords don't do enough to fix the problem.
Legally, there are still gray areas, especially with enforcement.
"Once someone's in the building, it's hard to stop them from smoking," Constantine admitted, although her co-op has never had a problem. "We just have to do what we can."
WHAT IN 'TAR' NATION
By Chuck Bennett and Selim Algar
China's toys are made with poisonous paint, its pet food and toothpaste have been contaminated, and its cough medicine has proven deadly - but at least its bogus bootleg cigarettes have less tar than American-made genuine smokes.
Counterfeit Newport cigarettes seized this month by Nassau County cops have less tar on average than the legitimate smokes, according to a surprising chemical analysis.
The results were provided to The Post by Arista Laboratories, a Richmond, Va.-based firm that specializes in tobacco testing.
There were 16.04 milligrams of cancer-causing tar on average in the fake cigs, compared with 17.43 milligrams in the real ones.
The test results fly in the face of what some authorities have contended - that fake cigarettes contain more hazardous compounds.
In addition, the carbon-monoxide content of the imitations was also lower - 14.16 milligrams, compared with 17.47 milligrams in the legitimate ones.
But they are far from a "safer" smoke. The fake cigarettes yielded on average 7.5 puffs compared to 7.2 puffs for the real ones.
And the fakes also pack more heart-disease-inducing nicotine, at 1.21 milligrams, compared to 1.15 milligrams for the real ones.
"They make these things without any standards or tests, so you really don't know what's in them," said Detective Sgt. Pat Ryder of the Nassau County Police Department.
The fake cigarettes were seized Aug. 9 in a Corona, Queens, warehouse after a five-month joint investigation by Nassau and Queens authorities. The raiders netted nearly 60,000 cartons, with a street value of $3.4 million.
Lorillard Tobacco Co., the manufacturer of real Newports, declined to comment.
WEIGHING 'EVILS': TERROR VS. TOBACCO
The NYPD report proclaiming that more than 24 "clusters" of possible homegrown terrorists threaten millions of New Yorkers throws into sharp relief a proposal by City Councilman James Gennaro (D-Queens), who wants to divert precious NYPD resources to ticket adults for . . . smoking cigarettes.
Once again: According to the NYPD, the threat of terrorism from homegrown "clusters" is greater than previously imagined, thus obviously requiring renewed vigor in New York's defense.
And Gennaro thinks cops are better used to fight tobacco.
Gennaro, whose Web site advertises him as "one of the New York City Council's most thoughtful and effective legislators," wants to ban adults from smoking in cars when children are present. He wants the NYPD to enforce the measure.
In a city of limited resources, priorities must be set. Among the challenges facing New York, it's hard to see how smoking in cars even makes the list.
Indeed, using cops to enforce good-parenting measures encumbers officers just as their first duty grows more serious.
This is a mistake. As any truly thoughtful legislator would know.
The arrest of three Chinese nationals on charges of running a Queens-based
multimillion-dollar cigarette-smuggling ring gives a whole new reason to
worry about black-market butts.
According to Nassau County DA Kathleen Rice, who oversaw the investigation, the contraband smokes had illegally high levels of nicotine and tar. Thus tens of thousands of New Yorkers have been smoking unusually harmful cigarettes.
An estimated 35 percent to 50 percent of the cigarettes New Yorkers smoke are counterfeit. A recent study by Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health associates taxes with this shift in supply, observing: "Purchasing from [buttleggers] was the principal behavioral response to the tax increase by smokers." That is, fewer people gave up the habit than resorted to buying contraband.
The Queens bust indicates just how entrenched the cigarette-smuggling trade has become. Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearm agents retrieved more than 57,960 cartons of illegal smokes from an unmarked Corona warehouse (a street value topping $3.4 million), plus $350,000 in cash.
"The number of contraband cigarettes, whether untaxed [out-of-state] or counterfeit, has increased," said New York-based ATF Special Agent Joseph Green. "The primary problems with counterfeit cigarettes are that they're lacking quality control. We have no idea what's even being put into these cigarettes."
Scaling back New York's cigarette tax to a reasonable level would be the quickest solution to this public-health threat; it would also deliver an always-welcome blow to Hezbollah, North Korea, China and Vietnam, all of whom allegedly are in on the take.
Cutting the tax just makes sense.
CIGGIES MAKE KIDS CARSICK: QNS. POL
By Frankie Edozien
A Queens lawmaker wants to expand the city's smoking ban to cars when
people under age 18 are riding.
City Councilman James Gennaro said he will unveil his smoke-free auto proposal today at City Hall, backed by a group of anti-smoking activists.
"We want to continue to fight to denormalize smoking," the Queens Democrat said yesterday.
Like the seat-belt law, his proposal would subject smokers in cars with children present to fines of about $200.
"Cigarette smoke has over 4,000 chemicals in it, and 150 of them are known to be poisonous," Gennaro, chairman of the council's Environmental Protection Committee, told The Post.
He said he'd seen too many times drivers puffing away with no regard for the health of their young passengers.
"Kids shouldn't be around smoking, period, but in cars it's particularly egregious. This provides an opportunity to give kids a break when they are in the car," the councilman said.
Gennaro has been the councilman for the neighborhoods of Kew Gardens Hills, Hillcrest and Jamaica Estates since 2002, and said he has fought against hiking the city's water rates.
Before being elected, Gennaro served as a policy adviser to former Council Speaker Peter Vallone Sr., under whose tenure the first smoking ban, which mandated that restaurants have smoking sections, was passed.
By Selim Algar
A five-month probe into a massive counterfeit-cigarette ring led to the takedown of a Queens crew that sold dangerous bootlegged Chinese smokes to retailers across the tri-state area, Virginia and Kentucky, authorities said yesterday.
The investigation ended with a raid last Thursday on an unmarked Corona warehouse, where authorities uncovered roughly 60,000 cartons - or 600,000 packs - of fraudulent brand-name cigarettes with a street value of more than $3 million. Agents also seized $350,000 in cash.
Authorities said half of the historic haul originated in China while other cartons were smuggled in from southern states to avoid hefty New York tobacco taxes.
Ringleaders shipped in the Chinese smokes for roughly $12 per carton and then flipped them to restaurants and small stores for roughly $25, a steep markdown from the $70 normally charged in New York.
Three Chinese nationals were arrested in connection with the bust. Min Liang Yu, 21, Ru Dong Chen, 46, and Yulin Zhuang, 43, were all notable players in the operation, according to authorities.
The group's leader, an unnamed 55-year-old Chinese national, is cooperating with police and will likely be charged.
Calling the scope of the venture "unbelievable," Kathleen Rice, the district attorney of Nassau County, where the investigation originated, said the Chinese Marlboros and Newports had illegally high tar and nicotine levels that posed a public health risk.
Rice, who was joined by Queens DA Richard Brown at a press conference yesterday, estimated that the ring cost Nassau County roughly $1 million in lost taxes.
The warehouse raid also yielded several boxes of fake Nike Air Force 1 sneakers in both black and white that were sold on the street at steep discounts.
Authorities said the busts stemmed from the single arrest of man suspected of selling counterfeit smokes. Ensuing surveillance led them to the nondescript Queens warehouse.
Detective Sgt. Pat Ryder of the Nassau County Police Department's asset-forfeiture unit said cops watched the location's activity for months.
"There were people in and out of there all day, five days a week," he said. "Vans, trucks, cars, all the time."
"These guys were ingenious," said Paul Rossi, deputy director of the New York State Office of Tax Enforcement, noting that the crew used computer-generated tax stamps that allowed them to charge higher prices.
'HAIRSPRAY' GETS A CIG-NATURE RATING
By Lou Lumenick
'HAIRSPRAY" is the first movie to be cited for a smoking scene under
the movie ratings board's new policy - and anti-smoking forces are burned
up because it only got a lenient PG.
The film version of the Broadway musical starring John Travolta, opening July 20, is rated PG (parental guidance suggested) for "language, some suggestive content and momentary teen smoking."
Set in Baltimore of the 1960s, the flick includes a fleeting scene of smoking in a high school bathroom. There are also brief shots of a character billed in the credits as "smoking teacher" in a faculty lounge, as well as pregnant mothers smoking and drinking during a musical number.
When the Motion Picture Association of America's ratings board announced it would add smoking as a criterion in May, it specifically said "historic or other mitigating context'' would be considered.
The "Hairspray'' rating was criticized by anti-smoking groups, who have been calling for a mandatory R rating for all films that depict smoking, on the grounds that such scenes encourage teen smoking.
"I don't know that just because a movie takes place in the '60s that it justifies a PG, since 14- and 15-year-olds are in the bull's-eye for the cigarette market," says Sheryl Healton, president of American Legacy Foundation. "It's really unfortunate and a disappointingly anemic response to a public health problem."
"It's an issue we take very seriously,'' responds Seth Oster, a spokesman for the MPAA. "Parents have more information now than ever before. If smoking is pervasive enough, it could result in the movie's rating to be moved up.''
The ratings board has given PG-13 ratings for three upcoming movies that include smoking, and awarded PG ratings to three others for reasons including "brief'' smoking.
CIG BAN? WHAT CIG BAN?
By Angela Montefinise
While Mayor Bloomberg tries to make the world safe from greenhouse gases, his cigarette ban is going up in smoke.
Scores of trendy clubs and neighborhood pubs across the five boroughs have become smoking speakeasies, where bartenders and bouncers regularly ignore the prohibition launched in 2003.
The Post spotted scofflaw smokers openly puffing away in a dozen bars and clubs in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island during the past few weeks - including celebrity hangouts Bungalow 8, Tenjune, Butter, Marquee, Plumm and Guest House.
The violations The Post witnessed include:
* A bartender and 15 patrons smoking all night inside Doyle's Corner bar in Astoria on the rainy night of May 16. The same scenario was witnessed several weeks earlier.
* A half-dozen hipster patrons at Brooklyn Ale House in Williamsburg smoking openly at the bar and at back tables early Saturday morning.
* A bartender at Boat in Brooklyn saying, "It's 12:30. You can smoke now," as they passed out makeshift ashtrays last Wednesday night.
Earlier, she told a patron to stop smoking, but after her announcement, a number of patrons started up again and the bar was filled with smokers for another hour.
* Dozens of smokers puffing on the dance floor and in the VIP area at the Marquee club on back-to-back nights as security guards looked the other way last week.
* At least 10 people smoking in Chelsea's small, exclusive club Bungalow 8 Thursday night. A security guard walked past the smokers to tell The Post, "You can't take pictures in here."
* Half the patrons of the Annadale Inn in Staten Island lighting up in the wee hours after the bartender closed the window gate to keep out prying eyes several weeks ago.
* Several smokers blowing smoke in the small basement of Lit Lounge on Second Avenue last week.
"They used to" enforce the smoking ban, Brett, a Marquee regular, told The Post last week. "But they barely pay attention now."
Smoking has been prohibited in bars, nightclubs and restaurants since March 2003, after the Bloomberg initiative became law in the fall of 2002.
Establishments are responsible for prohibiting smoking indoors, putting up "no smoking" signs and eliminating all ashtrays. Smokers are not punished.
Fines of up to $2,000 can be issued for every violation, and after three in one year businesses could lose their licenses. From April 2006 to March 2007, nine businesses were permanently shut due to smoking.
The city Department of Health said most businesses have been compliant, although there are violators. "We can't be everywhere all the time," a spokeswoman said.
Agency statistics show 199 establishments hit with 542 violations from April 2006 to March 2007, compared to 162 establishments getting 258 violations in the prior 12-month period. The number of complaints dropped from about 3,000 to 2,000 from last year to this year.
"It's a lose-lose," said an employee of a popular club on West 27th Street. "If we send people outside to smoke, people in the neighborhood got annoyed about the noise. If we let them smoke inside, we get hit with fines."
Allowing smoking indoors is "the lesser of two evils," he said.
Katie Browne, 26, a New Jersey paralegal and frequent clubgoer, said she has noticed a rise in smoking at nightspots over the past year.
"I hate it. My clothes are back to smelling like smoke, and it's gross," she said. "But there's no doubt about it - smoking's back."
VALLONE EYES BUTT STAMPS
By Maggie Haberman
In a bid to clamp down on the tax-dollar-bleeding illegal-cigarette trade, a city councilman is joining a push for state laws requiring encrypted tax stamps on packs of butts to prevent counterfeiting.
"This is a serious public-safety issue," said Peter Vallone (D-Queens), who has introduced a resolution calling for new tax stamps.
He cited reports that have estimated tax losses "well into the millions" being funneled to terrorist groups.
CIG-NIFICANT DROP IN N.Y. SMOKERS' QUIT KITS
By Chuck Bennett
Maybe they quit quitting.
Fewer New Yorkers than ever have opted for city-sponsored nicotine patches and nicotine gum to help wean them off cigarettes, Health Department data shows.
This year, only about 19,960 New Yorkers signed up for the free nicotine replacement therapy since the three-week program was launched April 25. The program ends tomorrow.
The city stockpiled 60,000 courses of the nicotine gum and patches this year. It gave away 35,000 patch boxes last year, and 45,000 patch boxes in 2005.
Sarah Perl, the Health Department's assistant commissioner for tobacco control, said she hopes the data indicate that more people are quitting on their own, especially in light of the city's graphic ads featuring ex-smoker and cancer victim Renaldo Martinez.
"Quitting smoking is the single most important thing smokers can do," Perl said. "Nicotine replacement therapy can double the chances for success. It's only free for the next few days."
The patch and gum are available by calling 311.
The program, which began in 2003, costs $4 million a year. The city estimates that it prevents 1,000 premature deaths annually.
Perl said outreach efforts need to better target men and smokers under the age of 24, who are more resistant to quitting. A few hundred smokers under 24 have signed up so far.
Perl said the department is very happy with the $2 million Martinez ad campaign, despite grumbling by many New Yorkers that it's too shocking.
"We're developing more hard-hitting ads," she said. "You are just going to have stay tuned."
By Kenneth Lovett
ALBANY - Mayor Bloomberg's push to raise the city cigarette tax by 50 cents has received the backing of a powerful state assemblyman.
Herman "Denny" Farrell, the Manhattan Democrat who chairs his house's Ways and Means Committee, introduced a bill this week giving the city permission to hike its cig tax to $2.
That would be on top of the $1.50 state excise tax.
Bloomberg 's push is expected to meet strong resistance in the Republican-led Senate, where Majority Leader Joseph Bruno has said he will not consider any tax increases this year.
STRESS BEATS CIG QUITTERS
By Chuck Bennett
Relaxation may be the secret to beating nicotine, a new city survey suggests.
Nearly half of all relapsed smokers cited stress as the main reason they resumed the habit, according to a survey of 2,400 New Yorkers released yesterday by the city Health Department.
Another 19 percent blamed booze or social situations, 12 percent "just wanted one," 6 percent reported a personal tragedy, and 3 percent said the end of a pregnancy spurred them to smoke again.
Slightly less than 1 percent reported that city driving made them smoke again.
Overall, the study found women more likely than men, 56 percent to 41 percent, to blame stress for not beating their addiction.
CITY'S BID TO SHUT CIGAR BAR SNUFFED
By Dareh Gregorian
A Manhattan judge has snuffed the city's bid to shutter a popular East Side cigar bar.
Lawyers for the city had argued that the Cigar Lounge on East 62nd Street should be closed because it ran afoul of the Smoke Free Air Act, which bans smoking in all but a handful of public places.
The cigar bar contended it was operating legally because it was in existence before the ban, and the city had been straining to find technicalities to shut it down.
Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Alice Schlesinger sided with the bar, finding the city's decision not to issue it a permit was "arbitrary and capricious."
Among the arguments the city Department of Health had used to find that the Cigar Lounge was not exempt from the law was that it had changed owners in 2003.
Schlesinger found that claim was a stretch, because the same people owned the bar - they had simply placed their ownership shares in a family trust.
GROUND CONTROL TO DR. TOM
Could Mayor Bloomberg be having second thoughts about his health commissioner, Dr. Thomas Frieden?
That's probably too much to hope for, but for the first time since Frieden became chief of the municipal health police, Bloomberg has thrown cold water on one of his commissioner's schemes.
Mayor Mike says he's not so sure that government should be involved in performing, or even promoting, widespread circumcision as an AIDS preventative.
Actually, Frieden's initiative seems to have caught the mayor by surprise: At a press conference, Bloomberg hinted that the first he'd heard of the scheme was in The New York Times - where Frieden apparently ran for a burst of publicity before discussing it with his boss.
Frieden seized on a World Health Organization report, based on statistics from Africa, that endorsed male circumcision as an effective way to prevent the spread of AIDS.
The commissioner said that not only would the Health Department launch a widespread campaign to encourage adult men at high risk for AIDS to undergo the procedure, but also that he's asked the Health & Hospitals Corporation to perform them free for uninsured patients.
Problem is, the facts don't support such precipitous action.
For one thing, the WHO data involves heterosexual contact, while New York's highest-risk groups remain gay men and intravenous drug users.
Which is why gay groups are skeptical of the approach, noting that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control has just begun to study the issue.
Rather than being directly involved, says Mayor Mike, government should focus on "giving advice and making sure that people are educated."
That's a good policy.
It's one Bloomberg might have considered before Frieden engineered bans on smoking and trans-fats, instituted an Orwellian city diabetes database and let slip the city's Rat Rangers on high-profile - but largely blameless - restaurants after the Taco Bell incident.
The circumcision scheme is merely a symptom.
The problem is Tom Frieden.
Smoking can kill you.
Excessive taxation isn't so hot for you, either - on several levels.
Case in point: Yesterday, Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi asked the state Legislature to let him impose a $2.00-a-pack cigarette tax.
"I want to do everything I can to discourage people from making the choice to smoke, and to quit smoking if they're already hooked," says Suozzi - parroting lines from Mike Bloomberg's playbook.
Indeed, Nanny Tom is inspired by the $1.50-a-pack tax that Bloomberg imposed in the city a while back.
Not to be outdone, Mike is meanwhile looking for another 50 cents per pack, to make the combined state and local tax on cigarettes sold in New York City $3.50 - pushing the retail price to $8.
Imagine how healthy New Yorkers will be then.
Or maybe not.
It stands to reason that such prices will cut smoking - at least on the margins. But at what collateral cost?
Tobacco remains a legal product, widely consumed despite the nanny-staters' efforts to tax it to perdition.
And, as is always the case in such circumstances, the staggering imposts have exacerbated disrespect for the law while creating a vibrant black market.
There is, of course, a brisk traffic in untaxed tobacco originating on Indian reservations all over the state; whether Gov. Spitzer has the nerve to do anything about it is a question that should be answered shortly.
Meanwhile, the Rockland County Journal News yesterday reported that black-market tobacco is costing New York state as much as $460 million in lost revenue.
Where those cigarettes are coming from should trouble anyone, says State Sen. Dale Volker (R-Erie County): "From dangerous cigarettes illegally imported from China to international terrorists profiting from illegal cigarette smuggling rings, our homes and families are threatened by [the] black-market trade."
The paper reports that the illicit traffic has been tracked to such unsavory origins as Hezbollah, North Korea, China and Vietnam.
It's no coincidence that an international black market has flourished as higher taxes are levied on an otherwise-legal product: As local and state governments force prices above $8 a pack, smokers seek out less expensive cigarettes.
It's called Economics 101.
Again, smoking can kill you.
So can Hezbollah.
Question: What do you get when you cross a pol's addiction to taxpayer cash with his innate cowardliness?
Answer: A plan by state Sen. Jeff Klein (D-Westchester) to split cigar- ette-tax revenues with Indian tribes - instead of collecting them in full as required, at the risk of tribal violence.
Just such violence may be in store if Gov. Spitzer does what he says he will - make good on his promise to collect full taxes from the tribes.
For years, Albany refused to enforce laws requiring tribal retailers to tax tobacco sales to non-Indian customers. (Sales to tribal members are exempt.)
Gov. George Pataki briefly tried to collect the taxes in '97 - but some tribes answered by shutting roadways, with 23 arrested in a mini-riot, and Pataki backed off. So don't be surprised by more violence if Spitzer tries.
Certainly the Seneca tribe's decision to add a tariff to cigs sold on its reservation - and to keep the cash for itself - is an indication of what's to come.
Meanwhile, Klein wants to split the baby - offering tribes half the tax money owed the state. But what's the point of having laws if groups can simply flout them (or have them rewritten) just by threatening disobedience?
Now, no one would ever accuse us of favoring any tax. But threats of violence must not be used to shape law, whether to raise or lower levies.
And if non-Indian retailers must collect taxes (as they willingly do), then so should those on reservations.
Of course, the whole problem stems from lawmakers' spending addiction. To fund mushrooming government programs, pols have raised tobacco taxes through the roof in recent years - claiming (disingenuously and without evidence) that smoking is a sin that can be curbed by taxing it.
The state slaps a $1.50 levy onto the cost of every pack; New York City tacks on another $1.50.
Here's a better idea: Why not scrap the tax altogether? That'll avoid violence and be fair - to Indians, non-Indians and, for a change, buyers.
OK, we know what you must be thinking: What are we smoking?
But, hey - it's worth a try.
POL SIGNALS SMOKE-TAX HEALTH AID
By Cathy Burke
Millions in proposed state health-care cuts could be restored - and then some - if New York could recoup the lost tax revenue from cigarettes sold on Indian reservations, a new report shows.
The report from state Sen. Jeffrey Klein (D-Bx./W'chester) maintains that $270 million of uncollected tax revenue is lost to tribal sellers - more than enough to restore Gov. Spitzer's proposed $219 million proposed cuts to programs funded through the Health Care Reform Act of 2000.
Those funded programs provide health care for more than 1.3 million uninsured New Yorkers, as well as provide added prescription-drug coverage for seniors and funding for a variety of health and smoking-prevention activities.
"It is estimated the amount of state revenue lost to the state as a result of purchasing untaxed cigarettes at between $436 million and $576 million in 2004," the report states.
"Recent estimates from an internal New York state Senate document attribute more than $270 million of those lost cigarette tax revenues to Native American sellers operating on reservations and on the Internet."
New York already has a law banning most cigarette sales via the Internet or by telephone or mail to state residents, and online cigarette merchants can no longer legally accept credit cards.
But forcing tribal sellers to collect taxes has been more difficult, the report notes.
"Gov. Spitzer inherited a dysfunctional system of cigarette-excise taxation whose provision are still entirely unenforced on tribal sellers despite a 12-year-old Supreme Court decision upholding that enforcement," the report states.
The report recommends the governor resume negotiations with tribes to share tax revenue. Klein said he will introduce legislation requiring tribal merchants to collect cigarette taxes - but providing those revenues be evenly split between the state and tribal governments.
CIG-TAX DODGERS SPARED
By David Seifman
Thousands of cigarette-tax cheats are off the hook after city officials determined that it didn't pay to pursue them, The Post has learned.
The Finance Department is giving a pass to about 21,500 smokers who made cigarette purchases over the Internet without paying the $1.50-a-pack tax.
Owen Stone, a department spokesman, said lists of tax evaders obtained last year from two Web sites included 20,000 buyers who owed less than $500 each and about 1,500 who made one-time purchases resulting in $15 tax liabilities.
Deciding it would have cost more to hunt down the smokers than the city could get back, officials decided to concentrate on the top 4,000 tax dodgers - who ducked a total of $5.8 million in taxes.
"We succeeded in raising awareness on the issue and determined we were at the point that the resources needed to research the data, track down buyers and collect cigarette taxes from smaller purchasers who were not likely to be reselling cigarettes were better put to use on other enforcement alternatives," Stone said.
The big buyers have forked over about $2.3 million so far.
The department's action comes after City Councilman David Weprin (D-Queens) complained that constituents socked with high tax bills deserved some leeway because they weren't aware they were breaking the law.
QUEENS POL MOVES TO SNUFF PUFFING IN KID CARS
By Kenneth Lovett
ALBANY - Smokers who light up with kids in their cars would face stiff fines and possible jail time under a bill moving through the state Assembly.
The measure, sponsored by Assemblyman Ivan Lafayette (D-Queens), is similar to one that went into effect this week in Bangor, Maine, as well as those already in place in Arkansas, Louisiana and Puerto Rico - though the proposed fines are much steeper.
Under Lafayette's bill, a person found smoking with a child under age 16 in a car would be subject to a $500 fine on the first offense, a $1,000 fine on a second offense, and $1,500 and up to 10 days in jail for a third and subsequent offense.
The legislation already has been reported out of the Assembly Health Committee and referred to the powerful Codes Committee.
There is currently no sponsor for the bill in the Republican-controlled Senate.
Sen. Charles Fuschillo Jr., the Long Island Republican who was a sponsor of the law banning smoking in most public places, said, "In the future, it's something to take a serious look at."
Smokers'-rights advocate Audrey Silk says she doubts there are any significant health effects from exposure to secondhand smoke in a car. She warns that banning smoking in a vehicle would be only a first step.
"Anybody with an ounce of sense understands that a car is private property,"
Silk said. "If they can come into our cars, it's no different than coming
into our houses and saying you can't smoke if children are there, and they
will do it."
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Real estate companies making it tougher for smokers in their homes
By Xana O'Neill and Jordan Lite
They banned smoking in the bars and restaurants - and now they're coming into New Yorkers' homes.
City real estate companies are jumping on the anti-tobacco bandwagon with new policies that prohibit tenants from lighting up behind their own doors.
It's the latest anti-smoking trend to hit the city since Mayor Bloomberg banned lighting up in bars and restaurants five years ago Sunday.
Clare Walsh just moved into a loft rental at 270 Park Ave. South. Its owner, Pan Am Equities, doesn't allow smoking anywhere in its buildings - including inside the apartments of tenants with new leases.
"It has my full support," said Walsh, 52. "Smoking is a particularly unhealthy, unattractive activity."
City health officials do not have specific data on how many residential buildings have official smoking bans, but real estate experts say a national movement has sprung up around creating smoke-free homes.
"We're going with the times, with the city doing the bans with bars," said David Iwanier, Pan Am Equities' vice president. "We are considerate of everybody's needs, as well as [the need to] to compete with the marketplace."
Manhattan real estate manager Jeff Lamb said most of the roughly 30 co-ops and condos he handles have banned smoking or are in the process of adopting no-smoking house rules.
That means the co-op boards can deny new applicants if they're smokers, or require existing owners who smoke to ventilate their apartments or plug holes to protect their neighbors.
The trend began shortly after a Manhattan Civil Court judge ruled in 2006 that secondhand smoke exposure violates residents' warrant of habitability, Lamb said.
The same year, the U.S. surgeon general reported on health effects from secondhand smoke.
"I would think it's going to become more commonplace," said Lamb, president of J&C Lamb Management.
Still, he said, "In one case, the smoking person, being sensitive to these new guidelines, decided to sell her apartment."
Neither federal nor state laws prevent residential buildings from adopting smoke-free policies, said Jim Bergman of the Smoke-Free Environments Law Project.
Audrey Silk, founder of the smokers' rights group NYC Clash, calls the emerging residential policies just the latest in an "incremental attack."
"First, it was planes for two hours, then six hours, then all planes; then half of restaurants, then all restaurants," Silk said. "Now, the home."
On a smaller scale, individual New Yorkers are making their homes smoke-free. Some 75% of New Yorkers say they have no-smoking rules in their homes, up from 65% in 2006, according to a poll conducted by Zogby International for the NYC Coalition for a Smoke-Free City.
About four years ago, Caroline Haugen would tell party guests at her Gramercy Park apartment to smoke in the kitchen with the window open. Then she told them to lean out the window while they were puffing away.
In 2006, Haugen and her fiancé, Quentin, began posting "No Smoking" signs in their apartment, and sent violators outside for a drag. The rule isn't hard to enforce, she said, because now, many of their friends have quit.
Adult smoking across the five boroughs has dropped 19% since Bloomberg banned lighting up in bars and restaurants. About 240,000 people have quit, city statistics show.
The city also brags that bar and restaurant receipts, and employment are up since the ban, and that 97% of establishments comply with the city law.
At the Old Town Bar, a Union Square speakeasy where the white tin ceiling still is stained brown with a century's worth of cigarette and cigar tar, bartender John Chambers said the ban is good for business - and his health.
The 115-year-old pub, said to be the oldest in New York, is cleaner and no longer has smoke residue on the mirrors, Chambers said. And he's cut back by half from his daily pack of cigarettes.
"Customers would come in and say, 'Thank God for the smoking ban,'" Chambers, 56, recalled. "I smoke a lot less. It makes life easier. It's healthier for everybody."
A customer there, Brian Oestreich, disagrees with the ban in principle, but admitted it made him quit his 15-year addiction. He smoked his last cigarette at 12:30 a.m. on March 30, 2003, the day the ban took effect.
"I've definitely quit smoking because of the ban," said Oestreich, 35, of Park Slope, Brooklyn. "Not having a bar full of cigarette smoke removes that temptation."
Bill would stamp out Internet cigarette sales, sez Weiner
By Elizabeth Hays
Rep. Anthony Weiner wants to snuff out illegal on-line cigarette sales by making them a felony and by banning the delivery of cigarettes through the mail.
Weiner (D-Brooklyn/Queens) said his goal is to cut down on tax-free Internet sales - which cost the city some $40 million a year in lost revenue and have been linked to terrorist groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas.
A recent federal study found that Hezbollah raised $1.5 million from illegal cigarette sales from 1996 to 2000.
Weiner's bill, which will be introduced tomorrow, comes on the heels of a similar U.S. Senate bill, introduced in March.
"I think there will be broad support here in New York because so much city and state funds are being lost," he said.
Under current law, illegal cigarette sales are considered a misdemeanor. Private carriers now voluntarily refuse to deliver online cigarette orders, but Weiner's bill would also ban the U.S. Postal Service from making the deliveries.
The bill would also allow the U.S. attorney general's office to keep a list of companies who flout the law and ban their deliveries.
"We don't know what other types of organized crime are also making use of this," added Weiner, who was joined by state Sen. Jeff Klein (D-Bronx/Westchester) in announcing the legislation.
Illegal market blackens lungs
Stealth cigarette sales hurt city's smoke fight
By Jordan Lite
New York City's steep tax on cigarettes is aimed at convincing smokers that tobacco is bad for their health - and their wallet.
But a new study suggests that a booming black-market business is undercutting that effort in the poorest neighborhoods.
After the city hiked its cigarette tax from 8 cents to $1.50 per pack in 2002, the number of New Yorkers getting their fix through street hawkers rose from 6% to 9%, city health officials said.
"The bootlegging undermines the purpose of the tax increase, which is to get people to quit," said Dr. Donna Shelley of Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, who published a study on the phenomenon.
"They're on the streets, in the subways, in the hospital, so even if you were thinking about quitting, they serve as a trigger to smoke," said Shelley, who published her findings in the American Journal of Public Health.
One recent day, hustlers on 125th St. and Lenox Ave. tried to hook passersby with shouts of "Newports!" and "Loosies!"
Packs were selling for $4 to $5, and single cigarettes were going for 50 cents. In some parts of Manhattan, one pack at a retail outlet can cost $9 after the $1.50 city tax and $1.50 state tax are tacked on.
A bootlegger named Stoney said he makes $200 to $300 each afternoon selling the contraband to sometimes-reluctant buyers.
"They always say, 'I'm trying to quit. I only want three cigarettes,'" he said. "By the time they get up the block, the cigarettes are gone and they want a pack."
Bootleggers also troll Fordham Road in the Bronx and parts of East New York and Bushwick in Brooklyn, said Richard Lipsky, a spokesman for the Neighborhood Retail Alliance.
Harlem student John Boulos, 23, buys the cheap butts "whenever they catch me."
Though he has tried to quit smoking "many times" in the past five years, Boulos doesn't blame the bootleggers.
"It's more stress than people selling cigarettes," he said.
City Health Commissioner Thomas Frieden said the 2002 tax hike - which made New York's levy on smokes the sixth-highest in the nation - drove down the percentage of adult smokers from 22% that year to 18% in 2006.
The reduction extended to poor areas. Central Harlem's rate dropped to 15% last year, though it shot up to 31% in East Harlem.
"Taxing cigarettes is the single most effective way to reduce tobacco use," Frieden said. "Small and even modest amounts of evasion don't change that one bit."
Despite the improvements, state Sen. Jeff Klein (D-Bronx) estimated in a report this year that the smoking rate would drop at least 2% more if all New York smokers had to pay the taxman.
City officials have doubled their retail inspections to 60 a month to check for counterfeit cigarette stamps and shut down Internet sites that weren't charging tax - collecting over $2 million owed to the city.
Pols mull deeper drag on smokers' cash
By Joe Mahoney
New York City smokers will have to shell out an estimated $4 more per carton of cigarettes under legislation that is advancing in both houses of the Legislature and has been getting bipartisan support.
The per-carton price upstate would jump by an estimated $3.
The measure increases the amounts cigarette wholesalers and retailers can pocket for every package of smokes they move in New York - but would result in no additional revenues for the state.
The price of a pack of cigarettes would jump by about 40 cents.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Marty Golden (R-Brooklyn) and Assemblyman Robert Sweeney (D-Suffolk), argues that wholesalers and retailers are squeezed by higher costs for transporting and storing cigarettes.
Lobbyists for tobacco companies are trying to kill the measure, arguing smokers will bear the brunt of higher prices and predicting the legislation will drive more consumers to get untaxed cigarettes from smugglers.
Mayor's burning to increase cig tax
By Joe Mahoney
ALBANY - New York City would drag another 50cents per pack from smokers and exempt higher-priced clothing from sales tax under two City Hall proposals, the Daily News has learned.
If Mayor Bloomberg succeeds in raising the combined state and local tax on cigarettes to $3.50, the city would have the second-highest levy on smokes in the nation, trailing only Chicago at $3.66.
City Hall sources said the mayor thinks the $110 cap on garments exempt from 4% city sales tax should be eliminated.
The proposals, which require legislative approval, began cropping up as lawmakers raced to complete work by tonight on a state budget that the Spitzer administration said will result in many New York City property taxpayers qualifying for rebate checks averaging $127.
Gov. Spitzer said the state spending plan, expected to approach $122
billion when it is finalized, will achieve one of his top goals - providing
public medical insurance to 400,000 kids who now lack coverage.
YORK NEWS FROM OTHER SOURCES
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Sun - April 1, 2008
Cigarette Tax Hike: 'Gold Mine' for Smugglers
By Benjamin Sarlin
The proposed tax hike on cigarettes in the state budget would create a "black market gold mine" for smugglers and force New York smokers to pay the highest taxes in the nation, experts warn.
Facing a $5 billion budget gap, state lawmakers see doubling the state's cigarette tax, to $3 a pack, as a way to help weather a difficult economic period. The $3 tax would be the highest of any state in America, $0.42 higher than New Jersey, which currently holds the record, and $2.93 higher than South Carolina's lowest-in-thenation $0.07 tax. Smokers in New York City, which adds a $1.50 surcharge on cigarettes, would pay $4.50 a pack in taxes.
The tax hike, the first in six years, is expected to earn the state between $200 million and $300 million. A pack of premium cigarettes in New York City now costs $7 or $8; prices would rise to above $9. Opponents of the tax increase argue that higher prices would drive smokers to seek ways to evade the law and purchase cheaper cigarettes from smugglers or in neighboring states, blunting potential revenue gains for the state. "It's a black market gold mine," a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, E.J. McMahon, said of the proposed tax. "You have to invest resources in scores of attorneys, cops, and auditors, who are all part of the tax enforcement you need."
"By raising cigarette taxes you help fund the mob," the president of Americans for Tax Reform, Grover Norquist, said. "Cigarettes are easier than liquor, as they're lighter and smaller per container. It leads to smuggling and smuggling is done best by organized crime."
Mr. Norquist said New York's proximity to states with lower taxes would lead smokers to cross the border to buy cigarettes, reducing tax revenue below state projections.
New York has seen significant increases in its cigarette tax rates before. In 2002, New York City's cigarette tax increased to $1.50 from $0.08, as part of an initiative by Mayor Bloomberg to encourage smokers to give up the habit. Although the taxes produced an increase in city and state revenue, some smokers took illegal measures to avoid paying the new tax, costing taxpayers tens of millions of dollars.
A 2007 report by the Independent Budget Office, a nonpartisan city agency that analyzes the city's finances, found that 27% of city smokers and 34% of upstate smokers sometimes bought "under-taxed" cigarettes in 2006. These smokers avoided the tax by buying cigarettes from other states, ordering cigarettes over the Internet, and purchasing cigarettes at Indian reservations. The city lost an estimated $40 million in tax revenue as a result of cigarette tax evasion in 2006, according to the report.
"It encourages people not to be ripped off," the founder of Citizens Lobbying Against Smoker Harassment, Audrey Silk, said of cigarette taxes. "Any consumer who's so abused will look for ways to avoid it, making outlaws out of normally law-abiding citizens."
Supporters of the cigarette tax note that despite lost revenue to smuggling and other tax evasion methods, net tax revenue has increased in every state that has raised prices, though not always as much as predicted. In the city's case, tax revenue from cigarettes rose to $160 million from $30 million between 2002 and 2003, even after taking into account an agreement with the state that sent 46% of the city's cigarette tax revenue to Albany.
"Despite any smuggling or tax evasion going on, the state or local governments still make a big chunk of money from increasing their tax rates on cigarettes," the director for policy research at Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Eric Lindblom, said. "That's not to say there isn't any smuggling or tax evasion. There is."
Mr. Lindblom said certain methods reduce tax evasion. Governor Spitzer, for example, reached agreements with wholesalers, credit card companies, and postal services during his tenure as attorney general to restrict sales to illegal online cigarette retailers. Sales at Indian reservations pose a greater problem in New York State, Mr. Lindblom added, but can be addressed by better legislation and enforcement.
Press - March 31, 2008
Proposed cigarette tax increase riles smokers in NY
By Carolyn Thompson
Jill Liddell was hardly alone while taking a smoke break outside a downtown office building, where she and other smokers were feeling singled out Monday as lawmakers considered a hefty increase in the state cigarette tax.
"I wish they would hit the drinkers for once," Liddell said.
Legislative leaders were talking about doubling the cigarette tax to $3 per pack to help the state make ends meet, but hadn't finalized the amount by Monday afternoon.
A per-pack increase of $1.25 or $1.50 would push the average price of cigarettes over $7 in New York.
"It's just an easy fix," responded smoker Tonya Pagan. "It's not being charged to alcohol or anything else that's legal. That's just the easiest way" for the state to make money.
Advocates praised the idea as potentially life saving, while opponents, including convenience store chains, said it would hurt business.
The Center for a Tobacco Free New York estimated that raising the excise tax by $1.50 would convince about 6 percent of the state's smokers _ about 168,800 adults _ to kick the habit.
"Raising the price through higher taxes encourages adult smokers to quit and discourages children from starting," said Russ Sciandra, the center's director.
But several smokers in Buffalo predicted they would just have more company on Indian reservations, where they buy untaxed cigarettes at big discounts. The Seneca Indian Nation sells cigarettes at numerous stores within a 30-minute drive of Buffalo.
Becky Daniels pays about $9 per carton for a reservation "no-name brand," just $2 more than a single pack would cost after the proposed tax hike. Pagan gets her Newports from reservation vendors for about $27 per carton, about half what she would pay at a regular store.
But they and others said they felt for fellow smokers without the means to make the trip.
"The state is after any money they can get. They're always trying to take money away from the working people," Daniels said.
The New York City-based Citizens Lobbying Against Smoker Harassment, or CLASH, called the proposed tax increase punitive and in a press release urged legislators to "reject this theft."
"Cigarettes are a legal product," the group wrote. "Considering the abundance of anti-smoking ads it's impossible to conclude that adults are not making an informed choice."
It was unknown whether any of the revenue raised from the proposed increase would go to state-supported stop-smoking programs. There are 19 smoking cessation centers around the state and most state residents are eligible for enough free patches, gum and lozenges to begin the quitting process, Health Department spokeswoman Claudia Hutton said.
Sun - March 27, 2008
Post-Smoking Ban, City Gains 10 Million Lbs.
By E.B. Solomont
New York City residents are growing obese at a rate nearly three times that of other Americans, prompting some who cited a link between weight gain and smoking cessation to question whether the city's crackdown on smoking may have had an unexpected result.
In a new study, city health officials found that obesity and diabetes rates here increased 17% between 2002 and 2004. By contrast, there was a 6% increase in national obesity rates during that time, and no significant increase in the rate of diabetes. City residents also gained 10 million pounds collectively during the two-year period, researchers found. The findings were reported in the April issue of the journal Preventing Chronic Disease.
While public health officials said the findings underscored the need for disease prevention programs, others drew a correlation between the rising obesity rate and a smoking ban that took effect in the city's bars and restaurants in 2003. According to city health officials, about 240,000 New Yorkers quit smoking since the agency launched a comprehensive antismoking campaign in 2002.
Weight gain among individuals who quit smoking has been well documented. According to one study that evaluated weight gain after smoking cessation, researchers found the risk of weight gain is highest during the two years after a person quits. The study, published in 1998 in the Journal of Family Practice, found that on average, those who quit gain between 11 and 13 pounds.
"What you see on the micro level of your friends gaining weight after they quit smoking has to also have an effect on the macro level," a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, Walter Olson, said. "Yes, it probably is true that one of the reasons America is gaining weight is because of tobacco going out." He said the ban was probably "one factor among many" contributing to the high obesity rates here.
Critics of the ban took a harder stand. "While they're trying to save one segment of society… they're getting nowhere because it has a negative effect elsewhere," the founder of Citizens Lobbying Against Smoker Harassment, Audrey Silk, said.
City health and mental hygiene officials acknowledged the timing but said they had no evidence that the crackdown on smoking had caused obesity rates to increase. Instead, the study's authors pointed to the city's demographic makeup and cited New York's large population of high-risk individuals, including blacks and Hispanics and those living in poverty. In a related study, also released yesterday, health officials blamed soda consumption for the city's obesity rates. About 27% of adults drink one or more sodas daily, researchers found. Nationwide, 34% of Americans — or 72 million individuals — are obese and about 7% of the population has diabetes.
In New York City, more than 1.7 million city residents are obese and about 700,000 have diabetes. According to the study, the obesity rate in 2004 climbed to 22.8%, up from 19.5% two years earlier. During the same two-year period, the diabetes rate increased to 9.5% from 8.1%. In raw numbers, researchers found, about 173,500 adults in New York City became obese and 73,600 developed diabetes between 2002 and 2004. New Yorkers are less likely to be obese than the rest of America, but they are more diabetes prone. While the increases were not limited to one neighborhood, the report found that among Hispanics, the obesity rate grew 14%, to 26.2% in 2004, up from 22.9% in 2002.
The rate also increased among the city's immigrants, who previously had lower rates of obesity and diabetes. Among foreign-born New Yorkers, the obesity rate increased 33% to 22.4% in 2004, up from 16.8% in 2002.
"The problem is, we have seen increases in these very large groups," the health department's director of research, evaluation, and planning, Gretchen Van Wye, said. She said the largest increases occurred among the fastest-growing populations. Ultimately, both conditions would become even more "pervasive," she said.
New York City doctors treating diabetic patients said the disease already is widespread.
Earlier this week, Lighthouse International opened a diabetes center to help patients adapt to diabetes-related vision loss. According to Lighthouse's president and CEO, Tara Cortes, diabetes causes about 25,000 new cases of blindness annually nationwide. "Vision loss is one of the side effects of diabetes that a lot of people don't think about," she said. "It affects probably half of people with diabetes."
Last week, the Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center at Columbia University Medical Center received a $21 million gift from the Russell Berrie Foundation earmarked for research and patient care.
Yesterday, a physician there, Dr. Lauren Golden, said even those without diabetes should be mindful of risk factors, including a sedentary lifestyle and obesity. "Nobody is immune from this," she said.
Press - March 27, 2008
Lobbyists push for tax increases to offset budget shortfall
By Valerie Bauman
ALBANY -- Lobbyists are making a last-minute push for higher taxes on millionaires and smokers as the budget deadline approaches in less than a week.
With a $4.6 billion budget deficit looming, two lobbying campaigns claim to have partial solutions to the state's financial burdens as lawmakers push to meet the April 1 deadline for a new budget....
...Another group pushing for a tax increase is the Center for a Tobacco Free New York. The coalition spent $200,000 on radio advertisements and print ads that support doubling the $1.50 cigarette tax for a total $3 per-pack tax.
The ad starts with a song reminiscent of superhero cartoon themes, and a deep voice proclaiming "Most New York leaders can't bend steel with their bare hands. None can leap tall buildings with a single bound. But all can save lives with a single vote to increase the cigarette tax."
The ad argues that the increase would raise more than $480 million and prevent more than 290,000 children and teenagers from starting smoking. Anti-smoking groups have long sought to increase the cost of buying cigarettes to deter people from the habit.
"The state can generate substantial new revenue and they'll also see a substantial decrease in health costs," said Jennifer Cucurullo, a spokeswoman for the American Cancer Society.
"This is just a money grab by the antismoking crowd," said Audrey Silk, founder of the New York City Citizens Lobbying Against Smoker Harassment. "They're just shameless, and on top of it all, it creates nothing more than an incentive for the lucrative black market to step in."
The coalition is buying ads in all major daily newspapers outside of New York City.
Press - March 21, 2008
AC to try again with total casino smoking ban
By Wayne Parry
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. -- The City Council will try again next week to enact a total ban on smoking at the 11 Atlantic City casinos, nearly a year after a partial ban was enacted limiting smoking to no more than 25 percent of the casino floor.
Councilman Bruce Ward said Friday he will introduce a measure at next Wednesday's council meeting to ban all smoking on the casino floor. He said three others on the nine-member council have said they will support the measure and that he is close to convincing a fifth member to sign on.
"There has been a year of compromise, and the public health issues are compelling," Ward told The Associated Press Friday. "It's really time to cut bait here and let's go forward."
In February 2007, the council was poised to enact a total smoking ban, but backed down in the face of intense opposition from the casino industry, which feared it could lose as much as 20 percent of its revenue and as many as 3,400 jobs.
The council then adopted a compromise ordinance requiring at least 75 percent of the casino floor to be nonsmoking.
Joe Corbo, president of the Casino Association of New Jersey, did not immediately return a call seeking comment Friday.
The law also required the gambling halls to build permanent, walled-off, ventilated areas, although no deadline was imposed on them to complete the work. None has even started such an enclosure.
"There's no chance it's going to be implemented," Ward said. "It's clear that's not going to happen."
Ward cited a ruling last month in which a state worker's compensation judge determined that years of breathing secondhand smoke at the former Claridge Casino Hotel gave a dealer lung cancer.
Michele Holcomb, a spokeswoman for the American Cancer Society, said she hopes the total ban passes this time.
"We still have thousands of workers who are still not protected from secondhand smoke and are exposed to illnesses including cancer," she said.
of Atlantic City - March 21, 2008
Atlantic City Council will again consider full smoking ban in casinos
By Michael Clark
ATLANTIC CITY - Year two, round two.
City Council will again attempt to outlaw smoking in city casinos next week as the passage of a watered-down ban approaches its first anniversary.
"It was somewhat self-executing in that the one-year anniversary is almost here and little has been done to comply with the partial ban," Councilman Bruce Ward said on Friday.
A full ban was initially proposed in February 2007 before officials amended the ordinance to a partial ban in the face of intense opposition from the resort's casinos. The measure allowed smoking in 25 percent of each casino, upsetting many. Arguments increased as the months progressed, with non-smoking advocates complaining that the casinos were dragging their feet to enact what the ordinance called for.
"I never felt that the 75/25 was a permanent solution," Ward said. "It did provide; I hate to use the term, breathing room for casinos."
The law required the casinos to erect new walls and create new, ventilated areas for smokers, but that work has yet to begin. No deadline was set for the areas to be completed and no work was ever enforced beyond the measure.
Joe Corbo, president of the Casino Association of New Jersey, did not immediately return calls for comment Friday.
Ward said he and his Councilman Eugene Robinson, who co-sponsored the first ordinance with Ward last year, have solidified two other approval votes on the nine-member City Council.
"And I think we have some leaners," he said.
Councilman John Schultz characterizes himself as one member on the fence, but his comments seem tell a different story.
"We should do it the day after Vegas does it," he said in a phone interview Friday. "I mean, I agree with (the non-smoking advocates) 100 percent, but then again, you have to look at our competition."
But discussions of legislation to ban smoking in Connecticut and Pennsylvania casinos has perked the interest of city officials and full ban proponents. A legal opinion issued earlier this month in Connecticut may allow lawmakers to extend a state smoking ban to the American-Indian casinos, which claim that smoking restrictions would be a threat to tribal sovereignty.
Meanwhile, Pennsylvania lawmakers have been debating legislation that would make casinos completely smoke-free or limit smoking to only 25 percent of the gaming space, similar to Atlantic City's casino smoking restrictions.
- March 21, 2008
Proposed Smoking Ban in Ithaca
Ithaca, New York – More and more central New York communities are restricting folks from smoking in public areas. Since August, the towns of Camillus, Marcellus, DeWitt and the village of North Syracuse placed smoking bans in certain parts of their neighborhoods. Now, the city of Ithaca is looking to create similar regulations.
The Ithaca Common Council is considering banning smoking near playgrounds, schools, doorway entrances, trails, walkways, city-owned garages, parks, and the commons.
“Just leave places for us, like that corner and that little area,” said Maxymo Corbalan, a smoker.
Corbalan isn't too thrilled with the idea. He says folks should be able to smoke wherever they want to.
“We deserve to have a cigarette while we're just walking and don't have to walk like five miles to a smoking area and then come back, because that's not right.”
City leaders say the proposal is necessary for a few very simple reasons. 1) Only 19% of adults in Tompkins County smoke. 2) Half of them said in a survey they want to quit. 3) Folks are just fed up with second-hand smoke.
“Well, I'm in favor of it,” said Ted Schiele, the Coordinator of Tobacco Free Tompkins County. Scheile says the ban would help residents kick their nasty habit.
”Public health and people have a right to be able to be out in public places and have them smoke free.”
Most councilors are in favor of the ban, so are most businesses in the commons.
The Common Council will address the smoking ban proposal during a meeting on April 15 at City Hall. It’s schedule for 7pm.
& Sun-Bulletin - March 5, 2008
Health advocates want N.Y. to institute higher cigarette taxes
By Dan Osburn
ALBANY-- Health-care advocates Wednesday called upon the legislature to increase the double the state tax on cigarettes to $3 a pack to encourage smokers to quit and increase state revenue.
"The price increase will encourage 168,000 adult smokers to quit and prevent 291,000 teens from ever smoking," Center for a Tobacco Free New York Director Russell Sciandra said.
"Raising the cigarette tax could reduce teenage smoking by 16 percent and result in 5 percent of adults quitting," Sciandra said.
The tax hike would also generate $500 million in new state revenue, Sciandra said. Ten percent -- $50 million -- of those funds should be invested in initiatives to get New Yorkers to quit smoking, with the remaining 90 percent of the revenue funding other health-related programs, he said.
The tax on cigarettes is currently a $1.50 a pack, with New York City collecting an additional $3.00 per pack, according to the tobacco-free center.
In 2006, there were 2.8 million adult smokers in the state, or 18.2 percent of the state's over-18 population, according to Brian Marchetti, a spokesman for the state chapter of the American Lung Association.
There were also 180,000 high-school-student smokers in 2006, or 16.3 percent of all high-school students, according to Marchetti.
The proportion of adults who smoke both in New York and the rest of the country peaked at 42.4 percent in 1965 and has been declining since, Sciandra said.
In 2006, there were about 25,500 tobacco-related deaths in the state, with 570,000 other New Yorkers living with a tobacco-related illness, according to the center.
The national average for state cigarette tax is $1.112 per-pack, according to the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids.
Scott Reif, spokesman for the Senate Republicans said they are opposed to the tax hike.
"We have been clear that we are opposed to raising taxes, we continue to oppose any efforts to increase taxes because it would hurt the economy and hurt our efforts to improve the economy, especially upstate," Reif said.
Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, R-Brunswick, Rensselaer County, said, "We're going to take a look at it."
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver questioned whether a larger tax on cigarettes would benefit the state. He said a new tax might prompt smokers to buy cigarettes in other states or on Indian reservations, where the prices are cheaper.
"I just wonder if it's a practical approach. I have no objection to it from a philosophical view," Silver said.
Matthew Anderson, spokesman for the Gov. Eliot Spitzer's Budget Division, said, "We are not currently considering that proposal at this time."
The head of the New York Association of Convenience Stores, James Calvin, slammed the initiative.
"It's a false assumption that a higher tax rate would generate more revenue," Calvin said in a statement. "Partly due to consumption declines, but mostly due to tax evasion, the state collects less cigarette excise tax today at $1.50 per pack than it did in 2001 when the tax rate was 39 cents a pack lower," he said.
Almost half of the smokers in the state buy cigarettes from tax-free outlets, Calvin said.
"The state collects just under $1 billion in cigarette taxes annually, but loses another $1 billion due to 'tax-free' sales by Internet vendors, Native American tribal stores, and black-market entrepreneurs," Calvin said.
Advocates argued that New York State tax is not high enough in comparison to other states.
"Across the nation, nine states have a cigarette tax rate of $2.00 per pack or more," said Michael Seilback of the American Lung Association of New York State.
"New York State last raised the excise tax in 2002. Since then, 43 states, DC and Puerto Rico have increased their cigarette tax rates more than 75 times," Seilback said.
Freeman - March 4, 2008
City park smoking ban stalls
By Paul Kirby
KINGSTON (NY) - A proposed smoking ban at city parks and municipal property got snuffed Monday night after lawmakers and others complained that, among other things, it was another ordinance that would be impossible to enforce.
During a combined caucus of Common Council Democrats and Republicans, it was decided that the measure should land back with the Laws and Rules Committee, a panel that had endorsed the park smoking ban in February.
It was expected that the full council was going to vote on the legislation tonight.
The decision to move the legislation back to committee was made after questions about it were raised mostly by City Clerk Kathy Janeczek, who is a non-smoker, and Alderman Robert Senor, D-Ward 8, and Thomas Hoffay, who will become a city lawmaker in May.
Both Hoffay and Senor are smokers.
Janeczek led off the questioning saying that the ban at municipal property, particularly City Hall, would not get the type of effect supporters hoped for. Janeczek pointed out that the street just behind City Hall was a public street and so is the one right front of the building.
The city clerk said smokers would continue to light up on those streets.
Janeczek also questioned the ability of the city to enforce the ban at large-scale events such as the city's Independence Day celebration. For example, smoking would be banned at Gallo Park but not streets or sidewalks surrounding the park.
Hoffay's focus was more on city parks. He said the law simply goes too far.
"It is one of those things where government overreaches," Hoffay said. "It fails in a common sense approach."
Hoffay said bans are fine for indoor areas, but if someone is alone in a city park with nobody else around, that person should be allowed to smoke. In May, Hoffay will replace Alderwoman Jennifer Ringwood, D-Ward 2, who is moving.
Ringwood was the lawmaker who pushed for passage of the smoking ban.
At one point Monday, Senor suggested that the law say that smoking should be banned 50 feet away from any structure, not entire parks. Those types of structures would include a pavilion, playground, or city building.
Senor said he would vote against the measure as it stood, saying that it was "too rigid" and the enforcement arms of the city do not enforce other laws.
But supporters such as Alderman Charles Landi, D-Ward 3, were adamantly opposed to putting the measure back in committee. Landi said that he didn't care whether the measure could be enforced. More important, Landi said, was that city officials would send a message to youngsters.
"There is a symbolic issue here," Landi said.
Post-Standard - February 26, 2008
Cayuga County: No smoking within 35 ft. of county buildings
By Diana LaMattina
Auburn, NY -- Cayuga County legislators voted tonight to prohibit smoking within 35 feet of a county building.
"The county is in a position that it needs to set an example," said George Fearon, R-Springport.
Complaints of cigarette smoke drifting into windows of county buildings led legislators to create the 35-foot buffer area outside the buildings.
Peter Tortorici, R-Auburn, and Chris Palermo, R-Sterling, voted against the resolution.
At least nine of the state's 62 counties in the state have a smoke-free buffer around county buildings. Onondaga County has a 25-foot buffer. Three other counties -- Seneca, Yates and Montgomery -- ban smoking at entryways to county buildings, according to the Tobacco Free Partnership.
Sun - February 21, 2008
Live Free or Die
Attorney General Cuomo is reviewing the decision of the United States Supreme Court yesterday that gives truckers the right to deliver cigarettes in interstate commerce. The decision came in a case called Rowe v. New Hampshire Motor Transport, in which Rowe was the hapless attorney general of the state of Maine, who tried to enforce a measure making it difficult for truckers to bring cigarettes into America's vacationland. New Hampshire Motor Transport was representing interstate trucking companies, who reckon they shouldn't have to worry about a patchwork of state regulations as they carried on the commerce that binds this country together. The Supreme Court ruled that under American law it is the federal government not the states that gets to regulate this kind of interstate trucking. New Hampshire truckers lived up to the state motto, "Live Free or Die." As for Maine, its motto, "I Dirigo," which means "I Lead," should be changed to, "Yes, Your Honors."
The opening for Mr. Cuomo comes because in 2000, New York State passed a law of its own that forbade truckers from delivering tobacco to anyone in the state. It was billed as being animated by concern for health, but that was a bogus claim all along. It was really an effort by the state government to block the inter-state delivery of mail-order cigarettes so that it could protect its own revenues via the excise it collects on the sale of cigarettes. Governor Pataki then and Governor Spitzer now, not to mention Mayor Bloomberg, are in the cigarette business for huge amounts of money. And they've been way up on their high horses; Mr. Spitzer used the threat of criminal prosecution to get the United Parcel Service to agree not to deliver cigarettes anywhere in the country. Customers of UPS be damned.
It looks like the legal underpinnings for that whole regime are now in jeopardy after Rowe. The Supreme Court saw through the claims about how Maine and other states were animated by concern for the public health. It ruled nine to zero that this kind of regulation of what truckers do is a matter for the federal government, not for the individual states. So Mr. Cuomo has got the governor, whose job he covets, exposed as a law enforcement officer who doesn't know his constitution. A UPS spokesman is telling our Joseph Goldstein that it is going to stick by its settlement with Mr. Spitzer and refrain from delivering tobacco. Presumably other companies more committed to their customers will pick up this work that the Supreme Court has just ruled — again, nine to zero — is something the state of New York has no business trying to regulate.
Sun - February 21, 2008
In Blow to Spitzer, Court Strikes Down Tobacco Law
By Joseph Goldstein
A ruling yesterday by the United States Supreme Court will cast a shadow over one of the successes Governor Spitzer claimed during his tenure as attorney general: his work to curtail online purchases of cigarettes.
Online cigarette sales, Mr. Spitzer and other state attorneys general found, were allowing smokers to evade taxes and permit minors to get around age requirements. Some states, such as New York, enacted criminal penalties for truck drivers who knowingly delivered boxes of tobacco. Mr. Spitzer used an investigation to leverage the United Parcel Service into giving up the transporting of tobacco to smokers nationwide.
Yesterday the federal high court unanimously struck down a Maine law that forbids deliveries of tobacco to individual consumers and burdens truckers with enforcing the law. The law is similar, though not identical, to New York's.
"The Supreme Court's ruling has a breadth that suggests states will have to revisit laws that are akin to this," the lawyer who successfully challenged the law on behalf of several trucking associations, Beth Brinkmann of the firm Morrison Foerster, said in an interview.
A spokesman for Attorney General Cuomo, Mr. Spitzer's successor, said the office was reviewing the Supreme Court decision.
So far, New York's law has survived court challenge. A federal appeals court in Manhattan in 2003 upheld the law against claims that it violated the Constitution's commerce clause by favoring instate tobacco retailers. But the challenge to the Maine law the Supreme Court heard was brought under an entirely different legal theory.
Trucking associations in New Hampshire, Vermont, and Massachusetts said the Maine law was pre-empted by a federal law that forbids a state from enacting a law "related to a price, route, or service of any motor carrier."
The Supreme Court's main concern was that Maine's law, coupled with other laws, undermined Congress's effort to deregulate the trucking industry. "To interpret the federal law to permit these, and similar, state requirements could easily lead to a patchwork of state service-determining laws, rules, and regulations," Justice Breyer wrote for the court. "That state regulatory patchwork is inconsistent with Congress' major legislative effort to leave such decisions, where federally unregulated, to the competitive marketplace."
The trucking industry has criticized the state laws as being not only burdensome but also, ultimately, ineffective. Online cigarette retailers, industry representatives say, sidestep the laws by shipping through the federal United States Postal Service, which is not subject to state laws.
"Why should the mailman be able to deliver them to your door and the UPS driver has to go to jail?" the president of the New York State Motor Truck Association, William Joyce, said.
In 2004. Mr. Spitzer's office opened an investigation into whether UPS had violated New York State law by shipping cigarettes to individual smokers. In return for the shuttering of the investigation, UPS signed an agreement with Mr. Spitzer that announced the company had made "a business decision" to stop shipping cigarettes to individual smokers anywhere in the country.
Under the agreement, UPS can back out if New York's law is declared invalid or enjoined by a court.
UPS is not likely to use the Supreme Court ruling as a hook to try to get out of that agreement with New York.
"We have a policy that's been in effect for almost three years now and has been effective, and we see no reason to change it," a UPS spokesman, Norman Black, said.
Buffalo News - February 17, 2008
Cigarette makers targeted in plan to collect state tax
By Tom Precious
ALBANY — Although his administration has delayed efforts to collect taxes on the cigarettes sold by American Indian retailers, Gov. Eliot L. Spitzer quietly is targeting tobacco manufacturers who provide the smokes.
A state Health Department advisory board, meanwhile, has unanimously called on Spitzer and lawmakers to double the state’s cigarette excise tax, now $1.50 per pack, to reduce tobacco use.
Unless the tax-free sales are curbed and taxes raised, the state will not meet its goal to reduce the number of smokers by 1 million over the next three years, a research group working for the state Health Department has warned.
Spitzer has backed away from his pledge during his 2006 campaign to end the tax-free sales, calling the matter a complex issue that should be negotiated with the Indian tribes, particularly the Seneca Nation, the state’s tobacco-selling king.
But deep in his recently proposed state budget, the governor has buried a provision that would impose substantial financial penalties on cigarette manufacturers who sell their product to wholesalers supplying any retailers, including Native Americans, who sell cigarettes tax free.
The State Legislature had approved that approach in 2006, but then-Gov. George E. Pataki vetoed it.
Now, with the Legislature increasingly interested in ending the tax-free sales, Spitzer has revived the effort to go “upstream” in the cigarette sales chain.
His proposal would apply to manufacturers who “know or reasonably should know” that taxes aren’t being paid on the product.
Groups pushing the state to collect the taxes note that a state law already requires wholesalers to pay the tax before it reaches retailers. But enforcement of the law remains on hold, tax officials said last week, because of a court injunction issued against the state.
Critics say the injunction would be lifted if, as the law specifies, state tax authorities distribute special coupons to Native Americans permitting them to buy cigarettes from Indian retailers without paying the tax.
“We’d prefer that Gov. Spitzer address this problem directly by just enforcing the law, rather than passing the buck. But if he lacks the political will to do that, an upstream embargo on the supply of tax-free cigarettes is a viable alternative. We support the concept,” said James Calvin, executive director of the New York State Association of Convenience Stores.
Lawmakers have estimated the state loses $500 million or more a year in revenues from tax-free tobacco sales.
Seneca officials were not available to comment.
Philip Morris USA, the Senecas’ biggest source of tobacco products, said it supports the state’s effort to collect the cigarette taxes.
But the company warns that putting the legal responsibility on manufacturers to end the tax-free sales is not the answer.
“Manufacturers just can’t enforce laws and shouldn’t bear the burden or responsibility for enforcement,” David Sutton, a Philip Morris spokesman, said of Spitzer’s plan.
Still, the administration hopes to collect the taxes, said Jeffrey Gordon, a Spitzer budget spokesman.
“The legislation is not inconsistent with negotiating with the tribes,” he said. “If negotiations do not prove fruitful, this provides another possible option for achieving the goals.”
The percentage of the state’s smokers buying tax-free cigarettes all or some of the time has slipped to 33 percent in 2006 from 40 percent in 2003, a state advisory board on tobacco issues recently was told.
But while Internet and cross-border sales have slowed, the percentage buying from Indian retailers has remained steady, according to Matthew Farrelly of the North Carolina-based Research Triangle Institute, a firm hired as a consultant for the state Health Department.
“Tax evasion remains fairly common,” he told the state State Tobacco Use Prevention and Control Advisory Board, a panel of doctors, research scientists and others appointed by the governor and Legislature to find ways to reduce smoking.
The state will not meet its goals to reduce tobacco use unless more is done to curb tax avoidance and to increase the costs to smoke, Farrelly said.
“The higher the price, the less people smoke,” he said.
The panel backed raising the state excise tax to $3 per pack.
In 2002, at the time of the last increase, the state had the nation’s highest cigarette tax. Now, 14 other states, including three on the border, have higher rates.
“The political process has to decide what to do with taxes,” said Dr. Richard F. Daines, state health commissioner, who agrees that taxes are linked to smoking rates.
The Spitzer administration has embraced the goal of cutting, over the next three years, the number of smokers statewide by 1 million from the 2005 level of 3 million, said Russell Sciandra, director of the Center for a Tobacco Free New York.
“If we’re going to do that, a tax increase has to be part of the medicine,” said Sciandra, one of the advisory board members that has called on Spitzer and lawmakers to raise the tax.
Post-Journal - January 18, 2008
Attempt To Extinguish Smoking Waivers Fails By One Vote
By Patrick Fanelli
MAYVILLE — It only took two members of the Chautauqua County Board of Health to save the coveted waivers that permit a handful of area clubs, businesses and veterans organizations to allow smoking in their establishments.
Until Thursday, it was unclear how determined Board of Health members were to eliminate the waivers, which were first distributed after the state’s indoor smoking ban went into effect five years ago, banning the practice in almost all places of business.
But motivated by studies that have pointed to significant health benefits in the wake of the smoking ban, board member Marcia Merrins made the motion to grant no further waivers and eliminate the others by the end of the year.
According to Dr. Robert Berke, interim county health commissioner and board secretary, there is a great deal of data that indicates the 2003 smoking ban has resulted in fewer hospitalizations for heart attacks — the main motivation behind the push to eliminate the waivers.
‘‘First of all, of the 62 counties in New York state, 52 have seen a significant decrease in rates of heart attack from 2002 base data to 2004,’’ Dr. Berke said. ‘‘Locally, we can show we have had a significant impact on the cardiovascular health of our population.’’
According to the state Department of Health, there were 3,813 fewer heart attack admissions — an 8 percent decline — a year after the smoking ban was put into effect. While Dr. Berke acknowledges that the timing of these and subsequent findings is not conclusive proof that the smoking ban resulted in the drop in heart attacks, he finds it encouraging nonetheless.
‘‘It happened at the same time this law went into effect,’’ Dr. Berke said. ‘‘What that means, we’re not sure. But we’re happy anyway.’’
And, according to Dr. Daniel Glotzer, Board of Health president, the purpose of the governing body is first and foremost the health of Chautauqua County residents.
‘‘We do have an obligation to Chautauqua County people at large,’’ said Dr. Glotzer, who voted to eliminate the waivers. ‘‘We have to look at what is in the best interest of the county.’’
The measure needed at least five votes by the nine-member board to pass, but with two members absent and another seat still vacant, the negative votes cast by board members Douglas Richmond and William Geary were enough to defeat it.
‘‘I believe this is about individual choice,’’ Geary said. ‘‘This is not ... an issue of public health any longer.’’
The measure’s defeat prompted more than two dozen business owners and club representatives in the audience to break out into applause even though two-thirds of the board members present favored eliminating the waivers.
At the meeting were the club representatives and proprietors who, after the 2003 smoking ban was put into effect, proved that they suffered a significant decrease in business and were then granted waivers by the Board of Health. One of those was Jim Mee, owner of the Jamestown Bowling Company, who recently spent thousands of dollars building a new smoking room as part of a $200,000 renovation project at his Foote Avenue bowling alley and sports bar.
‘‘I just hope you consider all these factors people are talking about and give us a chance,’’ Mee said after several others spoke on the detrimental impact eliminating the waivers could have on the local economy. ‘‘It just makes it hard to stay in business.’’
Businesses like the Jamestown Bowling Company were permitted under the waivers to establish smoking rooms in their establishments as long as the rooms are sealed off from the rest of the building and separately ventilated.
Though a recent report by the U.S. Surgeon General concluded this does not completely eliminate the risk of secondhand smoke seeping out into the rest of the building, some in the audience testified as to the smoking rooms’ effectiveness.
‘‘The smoking rooms I’ve been in ... are all effective,’’ said David Anderson, who represented the Southern Chautauqua County Club Associates. ‘‘There is 90 percent of the building you can go into where there’s not a whiff of smoke.’’
‘‘It works. It simply works,’’ Anderson later added. ‘‘You’re trying to fix something that’s not broken.’’
Jamestown attorney Andrew Goodell, who is helping those fighting for the waivers, cautioned Board of Health members against the outright elimination of the waivers, believing that both the health and economic needs of the community are currently being met and balanced under the present-day arrangement.
‘‘I think it’s important for your board to recognize that almost everything we do in life is a balance,’’ Goodell said. ‘‘That balancing act is the right way to approach this issue. ... To eliminate the waivers doesn’t do any balancing.’’
Though the measure failed, it could be put to a vote when the Board of Health reconvenes in March, making Thursday a temporary victory for business and club owners at best — and advocates of the proposal only need one more vote to put it into effect.
‘‘I think it’s wrong that they have our lives in their hands in the first place,’’ said Brenda Perks, owner of Mel’s Place, who fears that business will suffer dramatically if her own waiver is withdrawn and plans to attend every future Board of Health meeting in case the matter is again put to a vote. ‘‘I can’t believe the health department can do this.’’
Post-Journal - January 13, 2008
Smoking Waivers At Risk
Board Of Health Will Consider Rescinding Exceptions To Smoking Ban
By Patrick Fanelli
Chautauqua County health officials are at least considering the idea of rescinding waivers that allow some local businesses to include designated smoking rooms at their respective locations.
Mark Stow, county Environmental Health director, confirmed that the county Board of Health — which has the authority to grant waivers to the state’s 2003 smoking ban — will discuss the possibility of rescinding the waivers when the board meets in Mayville on Thursday.
Many local business owners plan to attend the meeting in support of the smoking waivers, which began to be distributed after the 2003 smoking ban went into effect in New York state, banning smoking in all places of business.
Brenda Perks, one of the most outspoken critics of the smoking ban in Chautauqua County, fears that many businesses that are starting to bounce back thanks to the waivers will once again feel the sting of a drop-off in customers — especially veterans organizations.
‘‘You take that smoking room away from them and they are going to drown,’’ said Mrs. Perks, who owns and operates Mel’s Place on East Second Street. ‘‘There’s not a club in this county that’s not struggling.’’
Waivers have been given on an annual basis if proprietors could prove they suffered a signficant drop in business because of the anti-smoking regulations.
Waivers permit smoking in places like the Jamestown Bowling Company — which has just undergone a $200,000 renovation project, which included the construction of a new and improved smoking room — as long as the designated rooms are separated from the rest of the premises and independently ventilated.
For Jim Mee, Jamestown Bowling Company owner, it would be a liability to have bowlers going outside to smoke, potentially returning to the lanes with wet shoes. Mee also said he was initially hit hard by the smoking ban since bowlers would stick around less frequently after they were done bowling, and he is hoping the Board of Health doesn’t make his new and improved smoking room merely a waste of money.
‘‘I’m really shocked they’re doing that, or thinking about doing it,’’ Mee said.
And Jean Anderson, club steward at the American Legion in Falconer where smokers can enjoy a separate room with comfortable sofas and a big-screen television, fears that business will once again suffer if the waiver is taken away.
‘‘Sometimes we have more people in here than we have in our bar,’’ she said from inside the smoking room. ‘‘It has brought our business back.’’
Advocates of the state’s 2003 smoking ban focus on the health effects of secondhand smoke, which the legislation seeks to eliminate for the benefit of employees — though they note that customers, too, benefit from the ban. And in a 2006 report, U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona emphasised the danger of secondhand smoke even where smoking rooms are present.
According to the report, ‘‘there is no risk-free level of secondhand smoke,’’ and the outright elimination of smoking indoors ‘‘fully protects nonsmokers from exposure to secondhand smoke.’’
The report also states that ‘‘separating smokers from nonsmokers, cleaning the air, and ventilating buildings cannot eliminate exposures of nonsmokers to secondhand smoke.’’
‘‘I think it’s really important to re-establish the data from the surgeon general’s report last spring saying there’s no safe level of secondhand smoke exposure,’’ said Laurie Adams, Chautauqua County Tobacco Control Coalition coordinator. ‘‘Inside or outside, there’s no safe level.’’
She also said the waivers were only given out to help guide businesses that were especially struggling through the transition process.
‘‘Waivers were not given to be a permanent exemption from the law,’’ she said. ‘‘They were temporary waivers.’’
Sun - December 17, 2007
Anti-Smoking Forces Push Mayor for Another Tax Hike
By Grace Rauh
As the clock winds down on Mayor Bloomberg's final term, activists are pressing him to add another anti-tobacco initiative to his public health legacy: a cigarette tax hike.
Advocates for the tax increase say higher price tags on tobacco products deter would-be smokers and reduce the number of cigarettes purchased.
A vice president of advocacy for the American Cancer Society, Peter Slocum, said his organization is pressing the mayor to put the cigarette tax hike on his Albany agenda for 2008.
"We are aware of the clock," he said. "Our goal is to try to raise the city and state excise taxes on tobacco before the mayor's term expires."
He said having Mr. Bloomberg in office has been an "almost once- in-a-lifetime opportunity" for public health advocates.
Mr. Bloomberg has said he supports raising the city's cigarette tax by another 50 cents, but it is unclear how far he will go to back a push, given his attention to other legislative priorities, most notably a congestion-pricing proposal to charge drivers entering parts of Manhattan. The tax hike would need to be approved in Albany.
Under Mr. Bloomberg, the city's cigarette tax was raised to $1.50, from 8 cents a pack in 2002, to bring it to a total of $3 when combined with a state tax on cigarettes.
The taxes have driven many New Yorkers — 27%, according to a recent study by the city's Independent Budget Office — to buy their cigarettes out of state or from other sources.
Mr. Slocum said studies have shown that for every 10% increase in the price of cigarettes, there is a drop in overall consumption of about 4% and a drop in underage smoking of about 7%.
The city found that after it raised the cigarette tax in 2002, the proportion of New Yorkers who smoked dropped to 19.2% from 21.5%.
Mr. Bloomberg, who pushed through a ban on smoking in bars and restaurants during his first term, has not supported every anti-tobacco initiative. His administration criticized a proposed ban on the sale of flavored cigarettes, and he has threatened to veto bills that would have raised the minimum legal age to buy cigarettes.
He has not taken official positions on two pieces of smoking-related legislation recently introduced in the City Council: a proposal to ban smoking in cars in which minors are riding, and a proposal to prohibit smoking within 20 feet of a hospital entrance or on hospital grounds.
He has indicated that he is still focused on smoking issues by rolling out a new advertising campaign last month that focuses on the psychological barriers to quitting smoking.
A spokesman for M r . Bloomberg, Stuart Loeser, would not say how high a priority the cigarette tax hike would be for Mr. Bloomberg. He wrote in an email message that the city would deliver its preliminary budget in January, indicating that if Mr. Bloomberg were to try to raise the tax, it would be included in his budget.
The founder of Citizens Lobbying Against Smoker Harassment, Audrey Silk, said she is skeptical a cigarette tax hike would be approved in Albany, because the Senate majority leader, Joseph Bruno, has said he wouldn't support it.
"They can push Bloomberg as hard as they want. As long as they have that barrier in the state, that's a big factor," she said.
A senior director of public policy and advocacy for the American Lung Association of the City of New York, Michael Seilback, said that in addition to the cigarette tax increase, he'd like to see more smoking-related legislation approved before Mr. Bloomberg leaves office.
"There are still fights left to fight," he said. "We're hoping that we can still see some success before those days tick away."
The director of the New York City Coalition for a Smoke Free City, Joanne Koldare, said she doesn't look at the end of Mr. Bloomberg's term as a hard deadline.
"Our deadline is as soon as we can diplomatically work it out," she said.
"Whether it's Mayor Bloomberg or not, we all in tobacco control believe this is the next best thing to do."
Spectator - December 3, 2007
Dickens’ Bill to Ban Smoking Near Hospitals
By Samantha Saly
City Councilwoman Inez Dickens, D-Morningside Heights and Harlem, has introduced a bill to ban smoking within 25 feet of city hospital entrances.
The ban was initially suggested by doctors and administrators at Harlem Hospital on Lenox Avenue, according to Dickens’ legislative liason Matthew Bitts. The number of residents suffering from asthma is almost five times the national average in the area.
According to its Web site, the hospital’s “Asthma Prevention Project is researching the causes and solutions to this health problem.”
“The bill is about preventive health,” said Lynnette Velasco, a special assistant to Dickens. “The ideal is to create a protective bubble because once you get inside the hospital you are protected, but once you’re outside, you are no longer protected and can be the victim of second-hand smoke. An ounce of protection is worth a pound of cure.”
“It’s a good idea,” St. Luke’s Security Supervisor Alvin Robinsonsaid. “I don’t think it’s going to work. There are already no smoking signs around here and people just ignore them.... They’ve [police officers] got better things to do than fine people for smoking in front of hospitals.”
A part of the Council’s Health Committee, Dickens’ push for preventive health measures stems partially from her own experience as a former smoker, according to Velasco.
But some say that the ban is unfair to smokers. “They talk about their rights because they are not smokers,” said Michael Wright, who was smoking outside St. Luke’s where he was visiting relatives. “What about my rights? I don’t see a wall of smoke here ... Asthma patients would have to walk past me even if I was on the next block.”
According to Bitts, the first steps to recovery and rehabilitation for those undergoing treatment of heart disease and asthma occur outside in hospital green spaces. “Often times people use those green spaces for smoking.”
Having evolved over the past few months, the bill is still in its early stages and lacks an official title. Staff members at Dickens’ office refer to it as the “bubble bill,” Velasco said.
“Everybody smokes,” said Anthony McNeill, who was smoking outside a hospital entrance. “Like in my case, people are coming out here because they are stressed out because their loved ones are ill. You want to take a smoking break and you still need to be close to your loved ones.”
As of now, Dickens has not officially gauged the response of fellow council members or residents of the community.
of Atlantic City - November 17, 2007
Anti-tobacco advocates call for smoke-free casinos
By Donald Wittkowski
ATLANTIC CITY - Liz String, a dealer at Harrah's Atlantic City, complained that the smoke is so thick on the casino floor that it chokes her. Jennifer Guillermain, a table games supervisor at Caesars Atlantic City, characterized secondhand smoke as a "death penalty" for workers.
"We need the job finished before our lives are finished," Guillermain said in an emotional appeal.
Warning of catastrophic health dangers in the gaming industry, anti-smoking advocates, led by New Jersey Health Commissioner Fred Jacobs, called Friday for a complete smoking ban at Atlantic City's 11 casinos.
Jacobs, 71, who is retiring as health commissioner, has made a casino smoking ban a top priority on his list of "unfinished business" that he wants to wrap up before leaving office Dec. 31.
With time running out on the current legislative session, anti-smoking advocates are urging state lawmakers to end the casino exemption in New Jersey's Smoke-Free Air Act, which bans smoking in most public places.
"We don't think this can wait for another year or another lame-duck session or another lame-duck session after that," said George DiFerdinando, chairman of New Jersey Breathes, a coalition of anti-smoking groups. "We can save lives by passing this law."
The Senate has given approval to legislation to impose a total casino smoking ban, but the bill has languished in the Assembly and appears nowhere near a vote.
Speaking at a press conference, anti-smoking advocates said that each day there is a delay in banning smoking, more casino workers are put at risk, with potentially deadly consequences.
"Human beings are becoming gravely ill just by going to work," said Robert Zlotnick, executive director of Atlantic Prevention Resources and a founding member of the Smoke Free AC Coalition.
After the state Legislature exempted the casinos from the Smoke-Free Air Act in 2006, Atlantic City's governing body passed a local law that restricts smoking to 25 percent of the gaming floor. The law took effect April 15, but a chief sponsor acknowledged that enforcement has been lax.
"We never believed it would be enforced," City Councilman Bruce Ward said.
Ward said enforcement has proved troublesome because casinos constantly switch which table games are considered smoking and nonsmoking - a process he likened to gerrymandering, where electoral boundaries are manipulated for political power.
Joseph A. Corbo Jr., president of the Casino Association of New Jersey, a trade group, said each casino in town is taking steps to comply with the partial smoking ban "by balancing the dual needs of its employees and guests."
Ward said he has spoken to U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., about the possibility of federal legislation for a nationwide casino smoking ban. In the meantime, he vowed to push for a total smoking ban at the local level.
City Council initially proposed a complete casino smoking ban, but a compromise was reached after the gaming industry warned of a 20 percent loss of revenue and thousands of job cuts.
"The current ordinance was passed by City Council after careful deliberation of the totality of all of the factors affecting the Atlantic City market, in an effort to minimize the loss of employment opportunities for Atlantic City residents," Corbo said in a statement.
String, the Harrah's dealer, said the table games areas where she works have become even smokier because the smoke is now concentrated in the smaller smoking sections required by the city's smoking restrictions.
"When you work in a smoking area, it chokes you," she said.
Casinos have repeatedly complained that the partial smoking ban has scared away customers. Gaming executives blame the smoking restrictions, along with extra competition from Pennsylvania's new slot parlors, for a 5 percent decline in casino revenue this year.
Anti-smoking advocates scoffed at that assertion, pointing to a recent poll that found that more New Jersey residents would patronize the casinos if they go completely smoke-free. The poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute for a coalition of anti-smoking groups.
Jacobs argued that the casinos appear to care more about profits than protecting the health of their employees and guests.
"I reject the whole idea that you can equate profits with people's lives," he said.
TV - November 15, 2007
FIFTEEN WESTERN NEW YORK HEALTH CARE FACILITIES ANNOUNCE SMOKE-FREE PLANS
[F]ifteen Western New York health care facilities announced plans to implement a smoke-free campus policy during a media event hosted by Erie County Executive, Joel Giambra, at Erie County Hall.
The following health facilities will adopt smoke-free policies: Allegany Arc, Brylin Hospital, Cuba Memorial Hospital, Homecare & Hospice, Kaleida Health (Buffalo General Hospital, DeGraff Memorial Hospital, Millard Fillmore Gates Circle Hospital, Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital and The Women and Children's Hospital of Buffalo), Kenmore Mercy Hospital, Mount St. Mary's Hospital, Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center, TLC Health Network (Lakeshore Health Care Center and Tri-County Memorial Hospital) and United Memorial Medical Center.
These health care facilities recognize tobacco use as an important preventable cause of cancer and other smoking related illnesses. To create an environment that is focused on all aspects of health care - wellness and prevention - as well as treatment, the facilities have committed to prohibit smoking on their campuses both indoors and outdoors.
"Health care institutions are in the business of promoting health and should not be facilitating a deadly behavior like tobacco use. All healthcare facilities should be deciding their smoke-free campus date, not whether or not they will become a smoke-free campus," said Leslie Blair, Tobacco Cessation Center Coordinator at Roswell Park Cancer Institute.
Today's announcement is the culmination of efforts by the American Cancer Society, Roswell Park Cancer Institute and other regional health groups to empower Western New York health care facilities to go smoke-free.
[NYC C.L.A.S.H. Note: Nonsense. Hospitals are a business that provide a service: medical treatment to those who need it. Like a car mechanic. It is not their role to make you live a certain way -- especially in light of the fact that smoking/cigarettes/tobacco is legal. "All aspects of health care"? But only tobacco, right? Nothing about not bringing pork rinds on their property in order to keep you from eating unhealthy foods.]
Sun - October 22, 2007
Bloomberg Brand Cigarettes
A new report out from the city's Independent Budget Office sheds yet more light on the sick relationship between the city government — and federal and state governments — and cigarettes. The report, titled "Higher Cigarette Tax Has Led to More Tax Revenue, More Tax Evasion," is illuminating reading for anyone suspicious that more harm than good results from excessive excise on cigarettes, such as the $3 a pack in city and state levies New Yorkers are forced to pay. It turns out that, while ostensibly aiming to curb smoking, Mayor Bloomberg and other officials who have, in effect, gone into the cigarette business have hooked government on the revenues while barely making a dent on smoking.
This is underscored in the new study. It found that the enormous increase in cigarette taxes that the city put through in 2002 — raising the city tax rate to $1.50 a pack from 8 cents a pack — hardly touched the proportion of the population of New Yorkers who smoke. Smoking dropped to 19.2% in 2003 from 21.5% in 2002. The size of that drop is so small that revenues have skyrocketed despite it. City tax revenue derived from cigarettes has jumped to $123 million a year, up from under $30 million in 2002. So the newly minted tobacco tycoon, Mayor Bloomberg, has proposed raising the tax even further, by another 50 cents. Past experience suggests such an increase wouldn't cause many to quit smoking but could, according to the mayor, bring in another $20 million in revenue.
Such a windfall would come, the new study suggests, at the cost of even great tax evasion. According to the IBO report, the city loses more money in tax evasion today than it used to bring in total from the 8 cent a pack cigarette tax — $40 million last year alone. New Yorkers can be more than a little suspicious of numbers culled from health department surveys of where New Yorkers have been procuring their illegal smokes — people are likely, shall we say, to underreport. The IBO report shows that around 27% of New Yorkers admit to purchasing "under-taxed" cigarettes. Of those admittedly law-skirting folks, 71% say they buy out of state, 31% from Indian reservations, 24% duty-free stores, 8% from toll-free numbers, and 6% from the Internet.
Then there is the cigarette tax's regressiveness, which is only magnified by patterns in tax evasion. The IBO report reckons that the ability of a person to evading the cigarette taxes is directly tied to his or her level of education. And not only are the poor getting hit hardest by the cigarette tax, but small businessmen — bodega owners who sell legal, over-taxed cigarettes — are getting hit hard as legal sales shift over into the gray and black markets. While there's been almost no decline in smoking, the IBO report shows that between 2002 and 2003, taxed sales fell by 42%.
Last year the mayor opposed efforts to raise the legal smoking age to 19 or 21 years of age. When was the last time the mayor had opposed any measure that might have a chance of causing fewer people to smoke? Could it be that, like so many other politicians, Mr. Bloomberg has become addicted to the cigarette excise he has put through on tobacco? The bottom line of the governmental enterprise he manages depends on people of all ages lighting up. His main problem isn't keeping people smoking. It turns out they enjoy that. His main problem, the new IBO report makes clear, is keeping smokers' money from slipping through his grasp.
- October 19, 2007
Educated NY smokers dodge cigarette taxes--report
By Joan Gralla
New York City's smokers dodged as much as $43 million of cigarette taxes last year, and the worst offenders were "the more highly educated," a new report said on Friday.
Another $105 million was siphoned off by New York state, because in 2002 it required the city to give up 46 percent of all of its cigarette tax revenues in return for agreeing to let New York City hike the tax to $1.50 a pack.
That increase was one of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's first anti-smoking measures; he also made headlines by banning smoking in bars and restaurants.
New York City smokers pay one of the highest cigarette tax rates in the nation, a total of $3.00 a pack, because the state matched the city's tax increase.
Even so, the rest of the state surpassed city folks when it came to ducking the tax.
Only 27 percent of city smokers said they bought no-tax or low-taxed cigarettes in a 2006 state survey, according to new report by the Independent Budget Office. In contrast, some 34 percent of other state residents said they got "under-taxed" smokes via the Internet or Indian reservations.
The tax-dodging divide was even more vivid when city dwellers were compared based on their education. "Twenty percent of smokers without high school diplomas reported evading cigarette taxes, compared with more than 60 percent for those with college degrees," the report said.
The worst offenders lived in the borough of Queens, added the report by the Independent Budget Office, which mirrors the Congressional Budget Office but on a local level.
An Independent Budget Office spokesman was not immediately available to explain why Queens might have the most tax-avoiders, though these residents tend to rely more on cars for transportation than in any other borough except Staten Island, and thus might have more choices.
While the state this year rejected Bloomberg's bid for another 50-cent-per-pack hike, the report noted more increases might drive more smokers to buy "under-taxed" cigarettes.
"There is considerable evidence that supports the mayor's enthusiasm: increases in cigarette excise taxes result in reduced rates of smoking among adults and by an even greater margin among youth," the report said.
But it concluded: "The availability of under-taxed and therefore cheaper cigarettes undermines the city's efforts to reduce smoking and deprives the city of funds that would be otherwise directed towards public health initiatives."
The extra tax dollars the state gets help pay for health care, the report noted.
Local prosecutors have gone after smokers who ducked taxes by buying cigarettes over the Internet, for example. The report did not examine this possible deterrent though it noted city residents with more than two cartons of untaxed cigarettes must pay the equivalent of the regular cigarette tax.
Press - September 30, 2007
Poor Smokers Would Pay for Health Bill
By Charles Babington
WASHINGTON — Congressional Democrats have chosen an unlikely source to pay for the bulk of their proposed $35 billion increase in children's health coverage: people with relatively little money and education.
The program expansion passed by the House and Senate last week would be financed with a 156 percent increase in the federal cigarette tax, taking it to $1 per pack from the current 39 cents. Low-income people smoke more heavily than do wealthier people in the United States, making cigarette taxes a regressive form of revenue.
Democrats, who wrote the legislation and provided most of its votes, generally portray themselves as champions of the poor. They do not dispute that the tax plan would hit poor communities disproportionately, but they say it is worth it to provide health insurance to millions of modest-income children.
All the better, they say, if higher cigarette taxes discourage smoking.
"I'm very happy that we're paying for this," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said in an interview Friday, noting that the plan would not add to the deficit. "The health of the children is extremely important," he said. "In the long run, maybe it'll stop people from smoking."
Congress probably will revisit the cigarette tax issue soon because President Bush has pledged to veto the proposed $35 billion expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program. The decade-old program helps families buy medical coverage if their income is too high to qualify for Medicaid.
Bush has proposed a more modest growth for the program, and both political parties seem inclined to pay for it through a tax on an unpopular group, cigarette smokers.
By most measures, the average smoker is less privileged than the average nonsmoker. Nearly one-third of all U.S. adults living in poverty are smokers, compared with 23.5 percent of those above the poverty level, according to government statistics.
The American Heart Association reports that 35 percent of people with no more than 11 years of schooling are smokers. Those with 16 or more years of formal education smoke at a 12 percent rate.
Non-Hispanic black men smoke at slightly higher rates than do non-Hispanic white men. But the reverse is true among women.
The demographics of smoking and taxation received scant attention during last week's House and Senate debates, perhaps because many Democrats and Republicans agree that cigarettes are the best target for tax increase if the insurance program were to grow. A few lawmakers, however, took a swing.
"I know there is very little sympathy for smokers these days," Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga., said during the House debate. "But it is still a tax increase on the backs of the smokers. And in order to get enough money to pay for this, it would require 22 million new smokers."
Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., defended putting the burden of expanded medical care on smokers.
"The tobacco tax is a great way to pay for it," he said, "because if you tax people who are smoking and they smoke less, then we have less health problems."
Rep. Jim McCrery, R-La., did not buy that logic. "To propose funding a growing program with a declining revenue source is, I would submit, irresponsible fiscal policy," he said.
If the federal cigarette tax nears $1 per pack, smokers in many states will pay hefty sums into government coffers unless they kick their habit. On top of the federal tax, New Jersey levies a $2.57 per pack tax on cigarettes, followed by Rhode Island at $2.46.
California is near the middle, at 87 cents a pack. Three states tax cigarettes at less than 30 cents per pack. South Carolina is the lowest at 7 cents.
Bill Phelps, spokesman for Philip Morris USA, based in Richmond, Va., said a steep federal tax increase could accelerate the national decline in smoking to the point that the insurance would have to find other revenue sources.
The average U.S. price of a pack of cigarettes has risen by 80 cents since 1999, Phelps said, largely because of state tax increases. State and federal governments received more than $21 billion in cigarette excise taxes in the 2006 budget year, he said, "so we think this trend is unfair to adults who smoke and to retailers who sell tobacco products."
In Congress, these groups receive little sympathy. But some lawmakers say voters should know the details of the insurance program's proposed funding structure.
Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., who spoke against the bill in last week's debate, said: "The headline ought to read, 'Smokers in America to pay for middle-class welfare.'"
Freeman - September 28, 2007
Board of Education bans tobacco-related items
By William J. Kemble
RED HOOK - School board members on Thursday voted to ban from school grounds "clothing, bags, lighters and other personal articles" that have tobacco logos or other smoking-related "identifiers."
Trustees said methods for enforcing the ban will be addresses in the near future.
Board members were split on whether visitors to schools or district-sponsored events should be asked to change their clothes or leave the grounds if they wear tobacco-related items.
"I'm not looking make this the smoking police or the wardrobe police that says, 'You've got a Camel hat,'" board President Sean McLaughlin said.
"Are we creating a policy that's unenforceable?" he wondered. "The downside to that is why have (the rules) if they are not enforceable? Why create them?"
Trustee Kelly Mosher said the policy was developed by a district committee that intended for the restrictions to include clothing and items belonging to visitors, not just students and school employees.
"That was the idea," she said.
Under the policy, the banned clothing and items also would be prohibited "in school vehicles or at school-sponsored events." Also, tobacco-related advertising "is prohibited in all school-sponsored publications," the policy states.
Trustee Frank Knobloch said the preponderance of subtle ads could create enforcement problems.
"You are not going to be impressed with how many tobacco ads there are out there until you forbid them," he said.
Trustee Johanna Moore said resistance is likely if the policy is enforced.
"It could get ugly if people are asked to leave an event if they aren't dressed appropriately," she said.
Penalties for students found smoking on school property is a three-day suspension and required participation in an intervention program.
Press - September 27, 2007
Study: Law Prompts Drop in Heart Attacks
By Valerie Bauman
ALBANY, N.Y. — A study released Thursday credits New York's 2003 Clean Indoor Air Act with an 8 percent drop in heart attacks statewide because of reduced exposure to second-hand smoke.
The report, issued by the state Health Department, found that hospitals admitted 3,813 fewer patients for heart attacks in 2004 than would be expected in New York without the indoor smoking ban. Studies elsewhere have reached similar conclusions. In one case, the rate of admissions for heart attacks returned to normal after the ban was lifted.
Admissions for strokes associated with the smoking ban remained unchanged in New York, according to the report, which was published in The American Journal of Public Health.
"The scale of our study is much larger than any study done before," said Harlan Juster, who led the study and works for the state Health Department. "Where they looked at a few hospitals, we looked at all hospitals in New York state that are required to report."
The study examined results from every hospital in the state except those that are federally run. It also tracked other variables that contributed to reducing heart attacks and isolated results related to secondhand smoke. The total decrease in heart attacks was greater than 8 percent. Researchers said that number unavailable Thursday.
Previous studies reported more dramatic results, including a 2003 study in Helena, Mont., that found heart attacks fell by about 40 percent after voters passed an indoor smoking ban. The rates returned to normal then the ban was lifted.
Another study found heart attack rates in Pueblo, Colo., dropped by 27 percent in the 18 months after a smoking ban was imposed in bars, restaurants and other public places.
Michael Seigel, a professor at Boston University's Social And Behavioral Sciences Department who reviews tobacco policies for the school, including smoking bans, questioned the conclusions of the New York study based on its limited scope.
"You can't conclude that that decline was due to the smoking ban," said Siegel, who has testified in New York City, Connecticut and Massachusetts about the value of indoor smoking bans. "Because it's possible that decline was happening everywhere, and without assessing data from every state, there's no way to know."
The New York study examined information from a 10-year span starting before the statewide smoking ban took effect. Researchers found that regulations by local governments that preceded the statewide ban also contributed to a downward trend for heart attacks.
"The moderate laws that were done in many counties did have an impact on reducing emissions and did protect people from secondhand smoke," Juster said. "This reports speaks to the importance of having a comprehensive statewide ban on indoor smoking."
"Science is not supposed to root for a particular outcome," said Audrey Silk, of New York City Citizens Lobbying Against Smoker Harassment. "It's to study and dispassionately report the results. These are advocates first and scientists second."
Juster said the study was unbiased.
"Clearly I'm a researcher, but I'm also probably a tobacco control advocate," Juster said. "But I'm a researcher first. If the (clean air) law was not effective I would be reporting that, but the law is effective."
The U.S. Surgeon General reported last year that nonsmokers exposed to secondhand smoke increase their risk of developing heart disease and lung cancer by up to 30 percent.
At least 22 states and the District of Columbia have enacted measures requiring all workplaces, including restaurants and bars, to be smoke-free, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
The American Journal of Public Health performs blind peer review of published articles.
- September 26, 2007
Smoker loses appeal in cigarette price fix case
By Gina Keating
LOS ANGELES - A smoker who accused tobacco companies of jacking up cigarette prices to recoup billions of dollars they pay each year to U.S. states lost a federal court appeal on Wednesday.
Steve Sanders also sued the California Attorney General, contending that state laws stemming from a 1998 multi-state tobacco settlement known as the Master Settlement Agreement have artificially driven up prices and violate antitrust laws.
Sanders claims that settlement spawned a "cartel" that allowed the four largest U.S. cigarette makers to hike prices by $12.20 per carton -- more than twice what they needed to cover costs -- without fear of losing sales or market share.
The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal noted that the case joins several unsuccessful actions in alleging price fixing as tied to the multi-state settlement, which was designed to force tobacco makers to shoulder costs associated with smoking.
The court rejected claims that the MSA implicitly or explicitly created an anti-competitive atmosphere for cigarette sales.
However, two other federal appellate courts have allowed similar cases to proceed to the discovery stage.
California Attorney General Jerry Brown called the decision "a resounding victory."
"It reaffirms the legal framework of the national tobacco settlement," he told Reuters.
Brown dismissed the lawsuit's contention that the state was complicit in allowing cigarette makers to raise prices.
"The fact is that taxes are making cigarette prices go up along with the tobacco addition, since people find it hard to resist," he said.
The defendants, Philip Morris USA Inc, RJ Reynolds Tobacco Co and Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp, and Lorillard Tobacco Co, accounted for 90 percent of cigarette sales for the past decade, the opinion said.
Philip Morris spokesman Bill Phelps said his company was pleased by the ruling.
"The decision affirms that the MSA and the related state statutes do not violate the antitrust laws and are not preempted by the Sherman antitrust statute, and that the state of California, as well as the tobacco manufacturers, are immune from lawsuits under the antitrust laws for entering into the MSA," he said.
An attorney for the tobacco companies had no comment. Attorneys for Stevens could not immediately be reached for comment.
Philip Morris is a unit of Altria Group Inc. RJ Reynolds Tobacco Co and Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp are units of Reynolds American Inc. Loews Corp owns Lorillard Tobacco Co.
Press - September 23, 2007
The war on secondhand smoke continues
By Valerie Bauman
Smokers, already pushed outside in New York, may be getting more grief than usual for lighting up in public places thanks to a new ad campaign designed to discourage smoking around children.
The state's $5 million campaign, one more push for champions of the anti-smoking movement, came at the same time a report by the U.S. Surgeon General indicates infants and young children are especially vulnerable to secondhand smoke. One print ad warns "when you smoke around your kids, they smoke too. By the age of 5 they'll have inhaled over 100 packs."
For years, state health officials and the Democrat-led Assembly have tried to limit smoking indoors and out, and some have focused their efforts on smoking around children in particular. The New York State Clean Indoor Air Act prohibits smoking in virtually all workplaces, including restaurants, bars and most other public indoor spaces.
"I think smoking in a car with a child has a more lasting effect than giving a child a slap in the face," said Assemblyman Ivan Lafayette, D-Queens. "They're both horrible things, but one is going to kill the child ... I know that's a hard comparison, but that's the reality of it."
Lafayette has introduced _ and reintroduced _ a bill that would ban smoking in cars with minors younger than 16. The measure has been kicking around unsuccessfully for nearly 10 years.
Meanwhile, other states have been more successful passing similar legislation.
Arkansas now bans smoking in cars with children age 6 and younger, while Louisiana has limited it when children 13 and younger are in the vehicle. Twenty states have considered similar legislation, including California, where a bill has passed the Legislature and was sent to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger Wednesday, according to National Conference of State Legislatures.
Various cities and municipalities have also considered limiting smoking in cars with minors, including Bangor, Maine, and Keyport, N.J.
Secondhand smoke is estimated to cause between 22,700 and 67,600 premature deaths from heart disease and about 3,000 lung cancer deaths each year among nonsmokers in the United States.
"There is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke," said state Health Commissioner Dr. Richard Daines. "Children are particularly vulnerable because they are still developing and their smaller size means the dose of toxins is greater."
One measure that failed to pass the Assembly would ban smoking on playgrounds, while another would make it illegal to smoke on beaches or in public parks.
Assemblywoman Sandra Galef, D-Ossining, sponsored the bill to ban smoking on playgrounds. The measure stalled because legislators couldn't agree on the definition of a playground.
"The scientific reports say that secondhand smoke has as much of a negative effect on your health as smoking directly," Galef said. "And we certainly want to be sure we keep smoke away from children who don't have the opportunity to walk away from it, and I think adults have to learn more responsible behavior around children."
"It's an intolerance campaign," said Audrey Silk, of New York City Citizens Lobbying Against Smoker Harassment. "They don't want anyone to enjoy a cigarette. They're exploiting the children, it's the usual red flag."
Silk added that any outdoor smoking bans would be largely unenforceable.
Nonetheless, state lawmakers and health advocates continue to push for stricter regulations that would further limit smokers.
While New York has considered bans against smoking around children and in some public areas, other states and cities have managed to pass similar measures.
Texas, Oklahoma, Washington, Vermont and Alaska have prohibited smoking around foster children in homes, cars, or both, said Kathleen Dachille, director of the Legal Resource Center for Tobacco Regulation, Litigation & Advocacy at the University of Maryland School of Law. Maine and Montana foster care systems have regulations that prohibit smoking around children in the system.
At least three states _ besides New York _ have proposed legislation to prohibit smoking on beaches: California, Hawaii and Rhode Island.
Some municipalities in California already prohibit smoking on beaches, both for health reasons and to eliminate litter.
The secondhand smoke ads will run in the state through the end of October, and cessation ads will begin in November and play through the holiday season.
This year, the state's Tobacco Control Program has spent $85 million, said Claire Pospisil, a Health Department spokeswoman.
Press - September 11, 2007
5 Atlantic City Casinos Going Smoke-Free
By Wayne Parry
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — Smokers may soon be out of luck: At least five of Atlantic City's casinos are making gambling areas smoke-free.
The move comes in response to a law passed in February requiring gambling floors to be at least 75 percent smoke-free. The city's 11 casinos must tell the state by Saturday how they plan to comply with the law.
Harrah's Entertainment Inc., which owns four casinos here — Harrah's Atlantic City, the Showboat Casino-Hotel, Bally's Atlantic City and Caesars Atlantic City — said Tuesday it will spend $7 million to open smoking lounges ranging from 1,000 to 2,000 square feet apiece. Tropicana Casino and Resort has a similar plan.
That would leave the gambling floor totally smoke-free; patrons would have to enter one of the lounges in order to light up.
"We are committed to improving the work environment for our employees," said J. Carlos Tolosa, Harrah's eastern division president. "I believe this smoke-free ordinance provides our industry with a fair transitional guideline for better workplace conditions."
Resorts Atlantic City and the Atlantic City Hilton Casino Resort plan to hedge their bets by creating a smoking lounge at each casino, along with one slots area and one table games area at each casino that will be set aside for smokers.
"We have customers who are very vocal on both sides," said Tony Rodio, regional president for Resorts Atlantic City and the Atlantic City Hilton. "A number of customers are very frustrated, who say that if they can't smoke, they won't come here. I also have customers who tell me if it was 100 percent smoke-free, I'd come here all the time."
The City Council in Atlantic City had been set to ban smoking in all the casinos earlier this year but relented under fierce pressure from the industry, which said it feared losing 20 percent of its revenue and thousands of jobs if it was banned. The law requires physical barriers to prevent smoke from bothering customers and employees in non-smoking areas.
Some casinos have not yet said definitively what they plan to do.
Tom Hickey, a spokesman for Trump Entertainment Resorts, said enclosed smoking areas will be built at each of the company's three Atlantic City casinos — Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino, Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort and Trump Marina Hotel Casino. But he would not say whether they would be gambling areas or smoking lounges where gambling is not offered.
The Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa had no immediate comment on its plans Tuesday evening.
Michele Holcomb, a spokeswoman for the American Cancer Society, said she is encouraged by the trend away from smoky gambling pits.
"People want smoke-free entertainment venues," she said. "You go to a casino to gamble and dine. You don't go somewhere to smoke."
18 - September 10, 2007
Smoking Ban Approved
ELMIRA - You can add Chemung County owned parks to the areas you're not allowed to light up in public. Chemung County lawmakers approved a smoking ban Monday night. The ban was approved by a 12 to three vote. There was some argument over whether there should be any areas exempted from the ban.
The ban would affect Harris Hill, Park Station and the Chemung County fairgrounds. The smoking ban would allow people to smoke only in designated areas at the parks. For example, lawmakers said Harris Hill smokers will only be allowed to smoke across from the main bathrooms. At Park Station, smoking will only be allowed on campsites. Officials said they will designate a specific smoking area during the annual Chemung County Fair.
During Monday nights meeting Tom Sweet from the 3rd district proposed an amendment to ban smoking on all county owned property. The amendment was shot down by lawmakers. County Legislator Peggy Woodard said a full ban is something they could revisit at a later date.
Lawmakers say the reason for the ban is to prevent children from being exposed to smoke, and to keep them from seeing other people smoke.
Post-Standard - September, 10, 2007
City of Oswego bans smoking at city playgrounds
By John Doherty
Smoking is becoming a drag in some Oswego parks.
The seven-member Oswego Common Council voted unanimously to ban smoking in the city's playgrounds and the pavilion in Breitbeck Park.
"This is only in the playground areas and has nothing to do with the general parks," said 7th Ward Alderman Richard Atkins, who proposed the ban last month.
"These (no-smoking signs) are in the playground areas only," said 3rd Ward Alderman Edward Harrington.
The Breitbeck Park pavilion is adjacent to a playground.
The signs will be posted by the city's Department of Public Works.
Posting of the no-smoking signs is the first step taken by the city to end smoking in the seven city-owned playgrounds.
Last month, Atkins suggested councilors consider adopting a stricter city ordinance that would make it illegal to smoke in playground areas. Penalties for violating ordinances include fines and jail time.
Although councilors have not ruled out a no-smoking ordinance, they said they wanted to post the signs first to see if that stopped the smoking.
Buffalo News - September 7, 2007
Jimmy Mac’s lawsuit to go forward
By Dan Herbeck
Rick Naylon got out of the bar business almost three years ago, but his battle against Erie County’s enforcement of a state anti-smoking law is still smoldering.
A federal judge on Wednesday refused to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the former owner of Jimmy Mac’s on Elmwood Avenue, who claims the county’s enforcement drove him out of business.
District Judge William M. Skretny’s ruling sets the stage for an eventual trial on the suit.
“This is very good news for Rick, because the judge is saying there are issues that need be decided at trial,” said David G. Jay, Naylon’s attorney.
Naylon, one of the region’s most outspoken opponents of the state law that prohibits smoking in bars and restaurants, is seeking more than $1 million in damages from the Erie County Health Depart- ment.
While Naylon claims the state’s Indoor Clean Air Act, passed in 2003, was unfair, some bar owners — especially those catering to families — have said it has not harmed their businesses.
Naylon claims the county’s unfair enforcement of the law caused his business to lose money and forced him to sell it in October 2004 at well below its value.
A state lawsuit filed by Naylon in 2004 resulted in a state court ruling that forced the county to change some of its enforcement criteria.
County attorneys argued that the lawsuit should be dismissed because Health Department officials acted in good faith, believing they were properly enforcing the smoking ban.
After leaving the bar business, Naylon embarked on a new venture structuring financial settlements for people injured in accidents.
Three bars in Erie County currently qualify for waivers and are allowed to have regulated smoking, said Kevin Montgomery, spokesman for the county Health Department.
Post-Standard - September 6, 2007
Fair boss saw smoke, and put out photo
Even a blue ribbon didn't exempt a photo from the state fair's tobacco ban.
By Michelle Breidenbach
Her name was Betty and she found herself at a Super Bowl party in Oswego, wearing nothing but a pair of Pittsburgh Steelers boxer shorts. Someone put a cigarette between her lips.
Deborah Chalone saw a Kodak moment.
The picture won a blue ribbon in the New York State Fair's 2007 Photography Exhibition.
But after eight days on display in the Art and Home Center, the state fair director decided Betty's portrait should come down. State Fair Director Dan O'Hara thought a photo of a smoking blow-up sex doll was inappropriate. It was the cigarette, not the sex.
"I believe that it wasn't in keeping with the fair's policy, which is not to advertise tobacco products," O'Hara said. "In the blow-up doll's mouth, there was a cigarette."
Chalone said O'Hara has not contacted her to tell her why.
O'Hara said he received six complaints that the photograph was inappropriate. He went to see for himself and agreed. O'Hara said he did not consider any differences between the content in art and other kinds of exhibits at the state fair. He did not consult the jurors. He has not called the artist.
"There was no need to," O'Hara said. "I will follow up with them and try to better understand what their rating criteria is and, obviously, I have to better educate them that, if it's not in with the fair policy, we ought not to have them exhibit it."
O'Hara this week finished his first state fair as Gov. Eliot Spitzer's appointee. In an effort to make New York state the healthiest in the country, he banned the sale of tobacco products on the fairgrounds and said the fair would no longer accept sponsorship money from tobacco companies.
Newsday - September 4, 2007
Proposal to ban smoking near Nassau buildings
A Nassau County legislator Tuesday announced new legislation that would ban outdoor smoking near county buildings.
"People shouldn't have to run through a cancer gauntlet of smoke to get to their local government," said Legis. David Mejias (D-North Massapequa), chairman of the Health and Human Services Committee, who will introduce legislation Wednesday prohibiting smokers from lighting up within 50 feet of county-owned buildings.
Nassau was one of the first municipalities in the region to ban indoor smoking and supporters believe this latest legislation is a natural step that will further smoking cessation efforts.
"People have to understand that this is no longer a right," said Presiding Officer Judy Jacobs (D-Woodbury). "It's a responsibility that people have for the health, safety and welfare of others."
Suffolk already has a similar outdoor smoking ban that applies to county buildings and hospitals. Earlier this year, Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi announced that he wants to ban smoking in parks.
Similar bans exist across the nation, including in Washington State, where smokers must stand at least 25 feet away from a door or window.
But Mejias' proposed smoking crackdown has some concerned that unless provisions are added to create designated smoking areas, the ban could have unintended consequences, such as sending smokers into the street.
"Where are they supposed to go?" Minority Leader Peter Schmitt (R-Massapequa) said of smokers. "There's a practical aspect of this that has to be addressed."
Though he predicted the legislation will pass, Schmitt, who opposed the indoor smoking ban that is now in effect, said the county would go down a slippery slope with Mejias's proposal.
"What's next?" he asked. "Are we going to ban smoking in cars? It's lunacy."
Jacobs, who said her late husband might have lived longer had he not smoked, said she believes the health consequences outweigh the rights of smokers to light up.
"I fully understand some people who are smokers are upset at this," she said. "However, I believe it is so dangerous to breathe in second-hand smoke, it supercedes the kind of concerns you are talking about."
Michael Seilback, senior director of public policy and advocacy for the American Lung Association of New York, said the proposal will help smokers quit their habit.
"We're not advocating a total ban on smoking," Seilback said. "We are looking at measures to help people quit. Measures like this legislation in conjunction with programs to help people quit are ways to do that."
Star-Ledger - August 24, 2007
Casino workers latest losers in industry's hard times
By Judy DeHaven
Competition from surrounding states and a partial smoking ban has taken a toll on the Atlantic City casinos. And now it's hitting the workforce.
Resorts and the Hilton, both owned by Colony Capital, confirmed yesterday they were offering buyouts to managers in an effort to avoid layoffs. Employees are being offered one week's pay for every year of service, with a minimum of two weeks and a maximum of 26 weeks, as well as accrued vacation time and medical benefits through Oct. 31.
The news comes less than a week after the New Jersey Casino Control Commission released second quarter results that showed gross operating profits -- a widely watched figure in the industry -- plunged 19 percent.
All 11 casinos reported year-over-year declines, but Hilton was hit hardest, with a whopping 44.9 percent drop. At Resorts, gross operating profit fell 15.5 percent.
Net revenue citywide fell 6.1 percent to $1.2 billion.
"The Atlantic City casino industry is facing its most difficult economic times since the inception of casino gaming," Tony Rodio, Regional President of the Atlantic City Hilton and Resorts Atlantic City, said in a prepared statement. "Increased competition in Pennsylvania, New York, and other nearby states, coupled with the devastating impact of a 75 percent smoking ban in the casino are factors which has the industry on pace for its first-ever year of revenue decline.
"In fact, we estimate that this partial smoking ban has resulted in $1 million in lost revenue per month at Hilton and Resorts combined," Rodio said.
Throughout the city, casinos have been scaling back, mostly through attrition. But none has come close to the Tropicana, which, according to the Casino Control Commission, has laid off nearly 800 people since a new owner, Columbia Sussex, took control in January.
Rodio said Hilton and Resorts are trying to avoid mass layoffs.
"We have and we will continue to explore every way possible to protect our employees' jobs during these times," Rodio said.
"By allowing employees to take advantage of this program, we hope to be able to prevent future reductions in staff."
Tribune - August 24, 2007
Smokers Side With Car Ban’s Logic [NYC C.L.A.S.H. Criticism: That should read SOME Smokers...]
By Liz Skalka
Queens smokers have expressed a variety of responses to proposed legislation from Councilman Jim Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows) that would make it illegal for anyone in a vehicle to smoke when someone under age 18 is present, though many side with the proposed law.
“If there’s a child in the car it should be prohibited,” said Dave Moyer, who is a smoker with an 11-month-old child. “It’s almost endangering the welfare of a child.”
Moyer added that “at the same time, it’s giving the government more power than they should have.”
Melissa Tufarella, who is a smoker with a 14-year-old daughter, agrees with the under-18 legislation and doesn’t smoke in the car with her daughter. “I don’t even smoke in the house,” she noted.
Max Vitolo, a smoker who has kids ages 5, 3 and 1, only smokes in the basement of his house and uses air purifiers in the rest of his home. “If you have a little bit of knowledge and a little bit of a brain you wouldn’t smoke in the car,” he said.
Gennaro’s legislation was introduced to the City Council earlier this week. Last Thursday, he stood outside City Hall in Manhattan to rally support for the bill.
The New York City Police Department would enforce the law, which would tentatively come with a $100 penalty for each violation.
“It is my belief that people’s right to privacy doesn’t extend to force-feeding their children cigarettes within the confines of the car,” Gennaro said. “This legislation will act as a deterrent, will inform parents of the dangers of secondhand smoke and will help to de-normalize smoking.”
Children who spend one hour in a smoke-filled room are inhaling as many dangerous chemicals as if they had smoked 10 or more cigarettes, according to the Mayo Clinic. In a vehicle where there is only several cubic feet of air, this is increased.
Second-hand smoke is a risk factor in the introduction of new cases of asthma among children and adolescents, according to the American Lung Association. It also exacerbates up to 1 million cases of asthma per year in the U.S. In New York City, roughly 300,000 children suffer from asthma.
Supporters present at the event included Councilman David Weprin (D-Hollis), representatives from the Center for Tobacco Control at North Shore-LIJ Health System, the Rockland County legislature, the Keyport, N.J. Board of Health and The New Jersey Group Against Smoking Pollution.
“Second-hand smoke kills, and there is no disputing that fact,” Weprin said. “We must employ all means within our power to ensure that minors are not subjected to the dangers of secondhand smoke simply because they are passengers in a car with an adult who smokes.”
Gennaro’s legislation is modeled upon a law passed in Rockland County in June that made it illegal to smoke in a car carrying minors.
But some believe that the legislation would be infringing on personal liberties. “We’re talking about a legal product and a legal behavior,” said Audrey Silk, founder of NYC Citizens Lobbying Against Smoker Harassment. “If they can do this in our cars, there’s no reason not to believe that they wouldn’t come [to our homes] next.”
She also said that she believes much of the research on second hand smoke is inconclusive. “We wouldn’t be where we are with this issue if it weren’t for the fraud that second hand smoke is harmful. It still remains debatable. There are studies out there that say otherwise.”
Some smokers in Queens agreed.
“That’s against your own personal Civil Rights,” said Keith Wander, who is a smoker. “You can do whatever you want in your house and in your car. It’s at the parents’ discretion whether you can subject your kids to that.”
Island Advance - August 17, 2007
Smoking ban for drivers with kids is next uproar
by Sally Goldenberg
The city's war with smokers has spilled out of the bars into the cars.
In the latest potential battle, a city councilman plans to propose a ban on puffing a cigarette in a car with a child passenger.
If the measure becomes law, adults smoking in a car with anyone under 18 years old would have to cough up $100, if cited by a police officer.
The ban that Queens Democrat James Gennaro, who chairs the Council's Environmental Protection Committee, plans to introduce next week is intended to protect the health of children who are otherwise defenseless if exposed to smoke in the tight confines of a car.
But opponents argue it steps on the toes of privacy rights and taxes a police department already stretched thin.
"Children who spend one hour in a smoke-filled room are inhaling as many dangerous chemicals as if they had smoked 10 cigarettes," Gennaro said, citing a statistic used by the Mayo Clinic in promoting his bill outside City Hall yesterday. "And what parent would not be incensed to know that their children are inhaling the equivalent of 10 cigarettes?"
The ban is modeled after a similar law passed in Rockland County two months ago, and Gennaro said, would not need state approval.
Under the bill, the person who is smoking -- whether a driver or passenger -- would be issued the ticket.
"I believe to some extent this is an incremental move to try to make it more and more difficult to smoke," said Kerry Gillespie, who heads the smoking cessation program at Staten Island University Hospital, Ocean Breeze. "The car was kind of the last bastion for a lot of smokers," he added, pointing to the city's 2003 ban on smoking in public places.
Gennaro's measure was disparaged by North Shore Democratic Councilman Michael McMahon.
"In the Council we just have people trying to come up with bans of things to kind of promote their own name recognition, if you will, and I think it's getting a little carried away," McMahon said. "I think when you're in your own car, that's a very private space, like when you're in your home."
McMahon acknowledged he has grown to appreciate the city's smoking ban, which he opposed in a Council vote, but said Gennaro's proposal steps on the toes of privacy rights and is unlikely to be enforced.
"You're not allowed to use a cell phone in your car, but that's not being enforced," he noted.
Gennaro responded to anticipated privacy arguments by saying, "people's right to privacy doesn't extend to force-feeding their kids cigarettes within the confines of the car."
The Island's two GOP councilmen pledged to support the bill.
"When you're in the car with your window rolled up and you're smoking with your child in the car, he or she is smoking too. And he or she really has no choice in the matter," South Shore Councilman Vincent Ignizio said.
James Oddo (R-Mid-Island/Brooklyn) also said he would sign onto the bill.
Still, Oddo acknowledged enforcement could be difficult.
"When you have a precinct the size of the 122 and you already are stretched too thinly, I'm not sure this ranks high on your list, but that doesn't mean there isn't value in passing it," Oddo said.
Even if the bill wins Council approval, its fate at the hands of Mayor Michael Bloomberg is questionable.
When asked about the proposal yesterday, the mayor acknowledged the harmful effects of secondhand smoke, but then said, "Whether or not the government should have legislation is a separate issue. It does seem to me that someday, I've always thought somebody is going to sue. Some kid is going to sue their parents."
- August 17, 2007
Councilman wants to ban smoking in cars with kids
By Ann Givens
Comparing the practice to "force-feeding children cigarettes," a New York City councilman yesterday said he will introduce legislation that would make it illegal to smoke with a child in the car.
James Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows) said the law, which he will introduce at next week's City Council meeting, would allow police to fine anyone caught smoking with a child under 18 in his car $100.
"People's right to privacy does not extend to force-feeding children cigarettes when they are in a car," said Gennaro, chairman of the Council's Environmental Protection Committee. "Get over it."
Virginia Reichert, director of the Center for Tobacco Control at North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System in Great Neck, said there is no safe exposure level of second-hand smoke for children. She said there are 200 poisons and 43 carcinogens in the smoke, and it can eventually be lethal.
The proposed law follows similar legislation passed in June in Rockland County. If it passes, it will be the latest in a host of laws governing personal activities, including bans on smoking in bars and restaurants, using hand-held cell phones while driving and serving trans fats in restaurants.
Both Mayor Michael Bloomberg and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said they are reviewing the bill.
"If you have a child in a car and you smoke, you're just really not being fair to that child," Bloomberg said about the bill at a news conference yesterday. "But whether or not the government should have legislation is a separate issue."
City Councilman David Weprin (D-Hollis), who plans to co-sponsor the bill, said people aren't entitled to the same right to privacy in their cars that they have in their homes. He said laws requiring people to wear seat belts and prohibiting them from using hand-held cell phones already limit what people can do in their cars.
But Audrey Silk, the founder of NYC Citizens Lobbying Against Smoker Harassment, said the bill is just another scare tactic. She said if this passes, legislators are going to be on the streets soon, fining people who give their children one cookie more than their recommended daily allowance.
"There are many things in life that could possibly increase the risk of something," she said. "Where do you draw the line?"
Several New Yorkers yesterday - even some who smoke - said they thought the bill was a good idea.
"You shouldn't be smoking in front of people who don't smoke in a confined space," said Kyle Chen, 26, of Flushing, outside his Manhattan office on a smoking break. "Other people should not be exposed to those kinds of health risks."
Nicole Mandrachio, 31, of Brooklyn, agreed.
"It's my choice to smoke as an adult," she said near her Manhattan job. "But you're talking about a child. Their lungs are small."
- August 16, 2007
City Lawmaker Wants To Ban Smoking In Cars Carrying Children
Queens City Councilman James Gennaro said Thursday that he will announce legislation aimed at banning smoking in cars that carry children under age 18.
Gennaro plans to introduce the bill next week. He says that under the legislation, the NYPD would enforce the measure, and smokers who are caught would face a $100 fine.
"Often children cannot communicate if their too young, or even if their little older,” said Gennaro. “They do not communicate to the fact that their uncomfortable to the presence to cigarette smoke in a car, and this bill will communicate for them."
Opponents say it's a violation of their civil rights and could lead to more regulations in the future.
"There are so many risks in life; if you're going to legislate every small possibility of a possible increased risk, not definite harm, then you'd have to legislate all types of parental behavior,” said Audrey Silk of the non-profit group New York City Citizens Lobbying Against Smoker Harassment.
Councilmember David Weprin plans to introduce a similar bill, that would be enforced for children younger than 16.
The legislation is based on a law in Rockland County.
- August 16, 2007
LSS Responds To City Council Smoking Concerns
By Patrick L. Fanelli
Tom Holt, Lutheran Social Services president and chief executive officer, said he was surprised to find out earlier this week that some of his employees are reportedly still venturing off the grounds and smoking in the surrounding neighborhood.
He says he wants Lutheran Social Services to be good neighbors with nearby property owners, but he also says the nearly four-month-old smoking ban on the grounds will not be changed.
‘‘We still believe very firmly that it’s the right policy for the organization and we feel it’s the right policy for the community,’’ Holt said. ‘‘We don’t intend to make any changes to the smoking policy as it exists.’’
Earlier in the week, the smoking issue returned to the attention of City Council members after a two-month hiatus. City Councilman Steve Szwejbka, D-Ward 1, reportedly spent some time on a neighborhood porch at the homeowner’s request and witnessed the behavior first hand.
News of that caught Holt by surprise, since he thought the problem went away.
‘‘Really, until this appeared in the newspaper, I was not aware of the ongoing concerns of the neighborhood,’’ Holt said.
At a meeting Monday, Szwejbka suggested that City Council members explore the possibility of requiring large employers like the 600-employee Lutheran Social Services to designate areas on the grounds for smokers. That way, smokers wouldn’t venture out into the surrounding neighborhood and cause a disruption, Szwejbka said.
Whether this is possible and preferable is something City Council members are expected to continue discussing in the coming weeks, but Holt has repeatedly said the policy will not be changed from within, since it seeks to encourage employees and clients alike to quit the unhealthy habit.
‘‘Despite some issues that come with this type of policy, the larger goal is to assist people who want to quit smoking do so, and we had numerous successes in that area,’’ Holt said.
Since May, smoking has been banned everywhere on the 123-acre Lutheran Social Services campus on Falconer Street. That includes patients’ rooms, areas behind buildings and parked cars.
Some employees who haven’t used the smoking ban as a reason to quit have reportedly ventured into the surrounding neighborhood, smoking in front of people’s homes and leaving cigarette butts behind.
When the perceived problem was initially brought to their attention, City Council members opted to allow the Lutheran Social Services administration to take care of the problem by setting stricter standards for their employees instead of any sort of ordinance or stepped-up enforcement of the city’s litter law.
Two months later, according to Szwejbka, smokers are still creating a problem for the occupants of at least one neighborhood home.
Holt says he is committed to trying to address the problem, but adds he is limited in that regard since employees are not on the clock and are not on the grounds when they smoke in front of neighbors’ houses.
‘‘We’re interested in trying to be good neighbors,’’ Holt said. ‘‘Whenever someone addresses a concern or a complaint with us, we try to address it within the limits we have available to us.’’
of Atlantic City - August 16, 2007
Trump calls for repeal of casino smoking ban
By Donald Wittkowski
ATLANTIC CITY - Donald Trump wrote to Mayor Bob Levy and City Council
President William Marsh on Wednesday calling on the city to repeal a partial
casino smoking ban that he claims is scaring away business.
In his two-page letter, Trump said gamblers are fleeing Atlantic City en masse for competing casinos in Pennsylvania, New York and Connecticut that don't have smoking restrictions.
"The negative impact of the city ordinance is even more than the mere loss of a large number of smoking patrons to Pennsylvania, New York and Connecticut casinos and the perhaps permanent decline in Atlantic City gaming revenue," Trump wrote. "It also requires that each casino operator expend millions of dollars to enclose its gaming floor smoking areas with structures which will significantly obstruct the customary flow of gaming patron activity and at the same time look absolutely terrible."
Atlantic City's partial ban, which took effect on April 15, limits smoking to no more than 25 percent of the gaming floor at the 11 casinos. Smoking is off-limits in the remaining 75 percent of the gaming space.
Marsh said Wednesday evening he had not yet seen Trump's letter but noted that the 75-25 smoking compromise was supported by the Casino Association of New Jersey, the gaming industry trade group that includes the three Trump casinos.
"At this point, I think the 75-25 split is very favorable," Marsh said. "That is something that the Casino Association supported along with the majority of the casinos. So at this point, I don't know if Mr. Trump has additional information that we don't have."
Levy, who also said Wednesday evening he had not yet seen Trump's letter, stated that it would first be up to City Council to repeal the partial smoking ban. Only then would he have to decide whether to use his mayoral veto power.
Sun - August 15, 2007
Council Seeks New Ban on Smoking by Parents in Cars
By Grace Rauh
Smokers have already been banned from New York bars and restaurants, and soon they could be prohibited from lighting up in cars carrying minors, an idea giving added fuel to critics who say the city has become a nanny state.
A City Council member of Queens who is chairman of the council's Environmental Protection Committee, James Gennaro, said he is planning to introduce the smoking bill next week.
"I am just seeking every opportunity I can to denormalize smoking and to try to put it out of the reach of kids," Mr. Gennaro said. "I've lost family members to lung cancer and I've seen what happens."
If enacted, smoking in cars with riders under the age of 18 would join a growing list of activities barred by the city, including making too much noise at night, serving trans fats in restaurants, and allowing students to carry cell phones in school.
Mayor Bloomberg, who has spearheaded worldwide anti-tobacco initiatives, used the health risks associated with second-hand smoke to argue for a ban on smoking in bars.
A spokesman for Mr. Bloomberg, Stuart Loeser, declined to comment, saying the mayor had not yet seen the bill.
When asked in January about a similar proposal in Rockland County, Mr. Bloomberg said people should have the right to smoke in their own cars, but "if it's a child in the car, who doesn't have the ability to speak up and protect themselves, then society does start to have an interest."
While he admitted he didn't know how such a proposal would be enforced, the mayor said, "We do have a responsibility to provide a health environment for our children and I would just urge anybody, if you have children at home, don't smoke at home, don't smoke in your car with your child; you really are damaging your child's health."
Mr. Gennaro's proposal calls for fines of $200 to $400 for a first smoking violation, $500 to $1,000 for a second violation in a single year, and between $1,000 and $2,000 for a third violation in a year. The New York Police Department would get the task of enforcing the law.
In Rockland County, which in June approved a measure to ban smoking in cars with minors, critics called the law an invasion of privacy and a violation of personal liberties. Mr. Gennaro dismissed those arguments.
"Boo-hoo," he said. "You can't subject kids to 43 carcinogens and 250 poisonous chemicals and claim privacy. Get over it. Their right to privacy doesn't extend so far as to poisoning kids."
A child who spends one hour in a very smoky room is inhaling as many dangerous chemicals as if he or she smoked 10 or more cigarettes, according to the Mayo Clinic.
A U.S. Surgeon General's report from 2006 found there is sufficient evidence to infer "a casual relationship" between secondhand smoke exposure from parental smoking and lower respiratory illnesses in infants and children.
The founder of Citizens Lobbying Against Smoker Harassment, Audrey Silk, said the proposal is an example of government overreach and should be considered part of an alarming trend that affects smokers and nonsmokers alike.
"Smoking bans are a symptom of a greater problem with our government, that they can come in and regulate all kinds of lifestyle choices because they've deemed it improper," she said. "It could be anything."
A lawyer and former executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, Norman Siegel, said the proposal is "very intrusive," and noted that to withstand judicial challenges, at a minimum the city would have to show that second-hand smoke in cars has a negative health effect of minors.
The Rockland County legislator who sponsored the county's bill on smoking in cars, Connie Coker, said there's no reason why the government shouldn't be able regulate smoking in cars, as it already regulates cell phone use while driving and requires car seats for young children.
"It's not your castle," she said. "Your car is out in the world."
Ms. Silk said that if the bill were approved, there would be no reason the government wouldn't try to regulate the number of cookies parents could give their children.
"If they can come into our car, then they can come into our home," she said. "And everybody should be afraid of this, not just because of smoking."
Herald-Record - August 14, 2007
Smoked out of work: Workers say Orange Regional's cigarette policy unfair
By Kristina Wells
Middletown — The last time Robert Thorpe checked, he lived in the United States.
Land of the free. Home of the brave.
Thorpe doesn't feel very free lately. Not when his employer, Orange Regional Medical Center, denies him his vice — smoking — even when he's on a break. And he says certainly not when he's being threatened with disciplinary action for smoking.
And we're not talking about smoking something illegal. Just plain old cigarettes.
Thorpe feels awfully brave.
He put up a sign at his home, staked into a bush on his Grand Avenue property, that says: "ORMC Employee Smoke Park Open." It's getting some good use, too, he says. Smokers come and go as they please, through a gate, and stub their butts in ashtrays that Thorpe provides.
Thorpe's yard, which is just a block away from the hospital, is immaculate — free from discarded cigs and even droppings from Thorpe's five dogs.
Thorpe, who has worked as a cook at Orange Regional for 28 years, opened his yard after the hospital instituted a policy of no smoking during the workday. Last week, Thorpe says his supervisor told him to take it down. Thorpe refused and says he now expects he'll be reprimanded.
"I feel like they're trying to run our life," Thorpe says, as he sits in his backyard-turned-smoke park and takes a puff from a Marlboro Light cigarette. "It's just crazy. I just want them to allow us to do what we want to do on our half-hour break that we're not paid for."
The hospital's Horton and Arden Hill campuses went smoke-free in May, forcing smokers to take it on the streets. That prompted complaints from neighbors, mainly at the Horton campus, where the hospital is surrounded by homes, about discarded cigarettes and smoke wafting in through the windows. So starting Aug. 6, the hospital banned employees from smoking at any time during their shift, on or off campus, even during their 30-minute unpaid meal break.
Hospital spokesman Rob Lee said he's not aware of any disciplinary actions taken against employees so far. He said managers are being encouraged to sit down with employees and work with them to "get help for their addiction."
Lee said Thorpe will not be disciplined for the sign at his house.
"He's certainly allowed to put anything he wants on his own property," Lee said.
If they return to work smelling like smoke, they can be disciplined.
Hospital officials cited a need to protect patients with respiratory ailments, like asthma, whose conditions could be aggravated if exposed to the smell of smoke. Officials also cited a need for Orange Regional and its employees to set a standard of health for the community and its patients.
Thorpe says he thinks the hospital will keep pushing him until he falls in line.
"It's not gonna work," he says. "I pay my taxes. It's my property."
Brooklyn Paper - August 11, 2007
Up in smoke
By David Marchese
Centuries after first sparking up in the Middle East, hookah bars have firmly wrapped their tentacles around Brooklyn.
From Williamsburg to Bensonhurst, Carroll Gardens to Bay Ridge, perhaps you’ve sniffed a sweet, pungent smell wafting seductively through the air. Follow your nose and you might happen upon a hookah bar — not, as two Department of Health officials interviewed for this story misheard me say, a “hooker bar.” There you’ll find people casually taking tokes from a hookah, a jumbo water pipe also known as “nargileh” or “shisha.”
“People want to know if they can get high,” said Faried Assad, the owner of Zaytoons, a Middle Eastern restaurant on Smith Street, who was putting the finishing touches on Sheesha, a hookah bar adjacent to his restaurant that’s due to open later this month.
Assad began his foray into the hookah business this past spring with an addition to the Fort Greene branch of Zaytoons, meant to attract students from the nearby Pratt Institute. Buoyed by success at that location, he decided to offer the smoky delight at his trendier Carroll Gardens spot. “More and more people are coming to Smith Street from Manhattan for a night out,” he said. “So I thought it made sense to open a hookah bar here.”
A third Zaytoons, this one in Prospect Heights, is due to open in the coming weeks.
But wait a second. Wasn’t smoking in bars, you know, banned? This is where things get cloudy.
A call to the Health Department confirmed that just like any other bar or restaurant, hookah establishments must comply with the city’s no-smoking laws, meaning tobacco is verboten. But hookah bars circumvent the tobacco kibosh because, their proprietors explained, there isn’t any tobacco being smoked at their establishments. Instead, the substance being set alight — usually called “herbal tobacco” — is said to be a harmless amalgam of various plants, fruits and flavorings (anything from kiwi to chocolate to pina colada) that can run from $10-$20 per pipe.
When we asked the Health Department if that explanation is kosher, a spokesman said the city would test the various mixtures, and those proprietors whose mixture contains tobacco will be fined.
Of course, this hazy legality, combined with a whiff of Arabian exoticism, isn’t exactly hurting the hookah business.
Unlike hookah bars in the Middle East, which tend to function as social clubs, places for a mostly male clientele to drop by at lunch or after work to share a smoke and shoot the breeze, Brooklyn’s hookah bars are angling to make a profit off of folks looking for a weekend alternative to boring old bars and clubs.
“[It’s appealing because] it’s not a mainstream atmosphere,” said Morgan Monaco of Prospect Heights. “Each bar has its own flavor, but the hookah bars attract a more laidback crowd.”
She added that it was easier to enjoy the company of your friends at a hookah bar. “You’re congregating around this pipe and people can talk and catch up more than they could sitting in a row at a regular bar.”
For now, these nights are still out of the ordinary in Brooklyn. “Hookah is an everyday thing back home,” said Egyptian-born Ayman Ghaly, the owner of the Sultana hookah bar in Williamsburg. “But [in Brooklyn], it’s a thing people do on the weekend, more of a special occasion.”
The typical decor of the new hookah bars testifies to their grand nightlife aspirations. Prepare to find yourself awash in a sea of deep reds and blues, heavy on fantasy Arabian motifs — think leather floor pillows and billowing nomad-style hanging tarps. “I love the colors, I love the cushions, I love the decorations,” said social worker Corey Glaser, 35, who sat cross-legged on the floor at Sultana, languidly drawing from a hookah. “It’s way more interesting and fun than going to a regular bar.”
At the Cazouza Cafe hookah bar in Bensonhurst, which opened this spring, the appeal is much the same. “It’s a nice, chill way to spend time with friends,” said Tolyan Vinnikov, an 18-year-old Brooklyn College accounting student. Classmate Aleksey Berezovsky, also 18, offered another reason why he’s hooked on hookah. “It’s a substitute for going to a bar,” said the too-young-to-drink Berezovsky between drags of watermelon-flavored smoke. These spots are particularly popular with the 18-20 set since many hookah bars do not serve liquor and therefore don’t have a 21-plus policy. It all depends on the religious views of the owner; Sultana serves booze, but at Zaytoons you’re out of luck.
“Young people like to smoke and they like the environment — it’s something different,” said Sultana’s Ghaly, who opened his place nine months ago when he saw a pink spot on Billyburg’s nightlife lungs. Since then, Sultana has found a place within the neighborhood’s cultural fabric. Sultana has played host to lesbian parties, Latin nights and even an event thrown by BBW (in case you forgot, that’s Big Beautiful Women).
Is this current hookah bar bonanza bound to last? Assad, for one, isn’t sure. “I’m skeptical,” he said. “But people keep looking for something new to do. You’ve got to give it to them.”
Herald-Record - July 31, 2007
Hospital workers banned from smoking on or off property during work day
By Kristina Wells
Middletown [NY] — No smoking. Period.
Not on your lunch break. Or at all during your shift at Orange Regional Medical Center. Break the rules and you might get punished.
Starting Aug. 6, every medical center employee, from security guard to nurse to doctor, will not be allowed to smoke during shifts, including while on breaks taken off hospital grounds.
"Those employees found to have smoked during the work day will be subject to the disciplinary process," according to a letter sent to employees July 17.
Back in May, the hospital went smoke-free on its grounds at both the Horton and Arden Hill campuses. The move prompted smokers to get their fix off-grounds, and in Middletown that meant going to residential areas. Complaints from neighbors about the second-hand smoke and litter, as well as concerns from city officials, caused the medical center to tighten the policy to ban smoking during work hours, the letter said.
The letter also cited concerns about employees coming into the hospital reeking of smoke and then caring for patients, which is "not in the best interest of our patients or our community."
Medical center spokesman Rob Lee said the hospital is well within its rights to set policy about employee behavior during the work day. He said the hospital, as a health-care leader, should set an example. He noted the hospital does offer smoking cessation programs for its employees and workers' insurance does cover part of the cost of stop-smoking aids.
"There is no right to smoke. An employer has the ability to make a smoking policy that covers the entire work day," Lee said yesterday. "According to labor law that includes breaks and meals, even if (they're) not paid for that."
Lee said the decision comes down to protecting the health of employees and patients. Odors can trigger adverse reactions in some patients, particularly those with respiratory conditions like asthma or in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy. Strong smells of smoke, perfume or from personal uncleanliness can trigger such reactions, Lee said. The hospital encourages employees to lay off the cologne and to practice good hygiene, he said.
But at least one employee, who asked not to be identified, said she fears being punished for her habit, which is a "personal choice" and not illegal. She said she wonders how the hospital can dictate her behavior on a 30-minute meal break it does not pay her for.
The smoke-free policy isn't unusual at hospitals. St. Luke's Cornwall Hospital banned smoking on grounds in 2005 at its Cornwall and Newburgh campuses. But the hospital has not taken the policy to the next step of forbidding employees to smoke while on duty.
SEIU 1199, the union that represents a vast majority of health-care workers in New York, does back smoke-free policies at hospitals, said Mike Rifkin, executive vice president.
To Rifkin's knowledge, no employees from Orange Regional have contacted the union to complain about this latest policy update. He questioned whether the hospital can dictate what employees can do on their own time.
"I've never heard of such a thing," Rifkin said. "When employees are off the grounds, the institution really has no say in what people do."
York Law Journal - July 31, 2007
Judge Finds Tobacco Settlement Bars Claims for Punitive Damages
By Daniel Wise
A federal judge has ruled that New York's participation in the nationwide $208 billion settlement reached in 1998 between 46 states and the tobacco industry bars subsequent claims for punitive damages in smokers' damage actions in New York.
Southern District of New York Judge Charles L. Brieant in Mulholland v. Philip Morris, 05-9908, also rejected a design-defect theory that led to a $20 million verdict against two cigarette manufacturers in a separate 2005 state case. More than $17 million of that verdict stemmed from an award of punitive damages.
Jerome H. Block of Levy Phillips & Konisberg, who represented the smoker in the case decided July 23, said that after the case is concluded, both rulings -- barring punitive damages and the design defect claim -- would be appealed.
Brieant's ruling had the effect of sharply limiting the claims of a smoker who died of lung cancer in 2006 at the age of 57 to a three-year period, from 1961 to 1964.
The plaintiff, David Mulholland, began smoking in 1961 at age 13. The suit's claims for inadequate warnings and fraudulent concealment extend to 1964, at which point the action claims he was addicted to cigarettes.
Brieant ruled that Mulholland's wife, Florence, who is suing as his administratix, can proceed to trial on those two claims.
Mulholland smoked Marlboros, which are manufactured by Philip Morris, the sole defendant in the case.
Brieant's ruling barring smokers' punitive damages on a res judicata theory is the first in New York, according to Thomas J. Quigley of Winston & Strawn, who represented Philip Morris.
New York state had sued the tobacco industry in 1997 as a predicate to its participation in the nationwide settlement the next year, of which its share was $25 billion. As a result, Brieant, who sits in White Plains, concluded that the Mulhollands and Philip Morris were "in privity" with the parties to the earlier action, which had been brought by the state on a parens patriae theory.
In granting summary judgment dismissing the Mulhollands' punitive damages claims, Brieant wrote that to allow them to claim "a private interest in punitive damages" would violate a strong New York public policy.
The Mulhollands' lawyer, Block, noted that the Florida Supreme Court, when presented with a similar issue, had allowed claims for punitive damages despite Florida's having brought a lawsuit, like the one in New York, which allowed it to participate in the nationwide settlement.
DEFECTIVE DESIGN CLAIM
In rejecting the Mulhollands' defective-design claim, Brieant refused to accept a theory that was the sole basis for the $20.5 million award in 2005 against Philip Morris and the American Tobacco Co., which has since merged with Brown & Williamson. An appeal of the verdict in the New York County case of Rose v. Philip Morris, 101996/02, is currently before the Appellate Division, 1st Department.
Brieant rejected the defective-design claim, finding that there was no feasible alternative to Marlboros because the other safer alternatives that had been offered by the Mulhollands' expert had been rejected by the marketplace.
The "reduced carcinogen" and "nonaddictive" cigarettes cited as safer alternatives by the Mulhollands' expert were "indisputably rejected by consumers," Brieant wrote.
"A state law requirement that allows only cigarettes with no tar or no nicotine to be sold is a virtual ban on cigarettes," the judge wrote, "just as a requirement that allows only 'alcohol-free' liquor to be sold would be a ban on whiskey."
In a separate ruling in a different smoker's case, Clinton v. Brown & Williamson, 05-9907, Brieant rejected claims of fraud in the marketing of light cigarettes through the use of terms in their advertising such as "light" or "lower in tar or nicotine."
Those state claims were pre-empted by the federal Cigarette and Labeling Act, Brieant concluded. The Clinton decision was also issued on July 23.
An appeal of a ruling by Eastern District of New York Judge Jack B. Weinstein, which certified a class action in Schwab v. Phillip Morris, 04-1945, against the tobacco industry for the way it has marketed light cigarettes is pending before the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Press - July 13, 2007
State sending tax notices to smokers who bought cigarettes online
HARTFORD, Conn. _ The state tax department is smoking out Connecticut residents who bought their cigarettes online.
The state Department of Revenue Services announced Friday it is sending notices this month to residents who owe state taxes on unstamped cigarettes they bought over the Internet. The first batch of letters will be sent to 150 people.
At least 3,500 people will eventually receive notices, DRS said.
State tax officials don't have a specific amount of money that they expect to collect. But one individual owes $11,462 in taxes and interest for cigarettes purchased online during 2005 and 2006.
Federal law requires out-of-state retailers to give state tax departments detailed information about purchases of cigarettes sent to their state. Online and mail order retailers must provide names, addresses, brands and quantities of cigarettes shipped to each state.
That information allows states to make sure taxes are paid on those cigarettes.
Connecticut's cigarette tax recently increased from $1.51 to $2 a pack.
10 Now - July 8, 2007
Lewis County General Hospital goes tobacco free
By Brian Dwyer
Smoking is a sight that will no longer be acceptable on the grounds of the Lewis County Hospital. The facility has decided to go tobacco free. It says allowing a health risk like this really makes no sense.
"Tobacco use within the grounds of a healthcare facility is contrary to our mission, and that is to promote good health," Environment of Care Committee Chairman Joe Todora said.
The hospital is following in the footsteps of other healthcare facilities like Samaritan Medical Center, Carthage Area Hospital, and Crouse Hospital in Syracuse. Hospital officials say just about everyone was behind the decision.
"We did a survey for employees, patients, and residents in the nursing home," Todora said. "Visitors as well. We received about 200 surveys back. Of those 200, I'd say 99 percent were positive."
But, one man who didn't want to speak on camera told us he thought it was just another way to tell smokers, like himself, what they can and cannot do. However, everyone else we talked to disagreed.
"I think it's a good idea," said Lewis County Board of Legislators Chair Jack Bush. "Hospitals are there to cure people who smoked. To let that continue on hospital grounds is really kind of foolish."
Those who are found in violation of this new rule will not be fined or do any jail time, but they do receive a yellow card. The card mentions that they have been found in violation of using tobacco on the grounds and lists the reasons why the hospital feels this rule is necessary.
Post-Standard - July 7, 2007
Vendor files lawsuit challenging as "discriminatory" a recently added state fairgrounds rule.
By Delen Goldberg
A new rule at the New York State Fair has Michael Tarnowicz burning up.
Visitors this year will be able to drink beer, eat deep-fried Twinkies and smoke in designated areas, but they won't be able to buy cigars from Tarnowicz, a Connecticut-based vendor who has peddled tobacco at the fair for the past 10 years.
Organizers denied Tarnowicz a license to sell cigars this year. The reason: State and local officials banned the sale of tobacco products at fairgrounds events in an effort to make New York the healthiest state in the nation.
Tarnowicz doesn't plan on being stamped out without a fight. He filed a lawsuit Friday in Albany County Supreme Court challenging the decision, calling it "arbitrary, irrational and discriminatory."
"It seems ironic that they want to be the health police, but the sale of unhealthy food and alcohol is free flowing," said Tarnowicz, owner of Connecticut Valley Tobacconist in Enfield, Conn.
The lawsuit names Dan O'Hara, executive director of the fair, and Patrick Hooker, state agriculture commissioner, as defendants.
The lawsuit is supported by NYC Citizens Lobbying Against Smoker Harassment, a smokers' rights group.
O'Hara declined to comment on the lawsuit Friday, saying his "lawyers will handle it accordingly." Calls to Hooker's office were not immediately returned.
David Novak, an Albany lawyer representing Tarnowicz, said the lawsuit centers on the ideas of fair trade and people's right to choose.
"They're allowing people to bring their own tobacco products onto the fairgrounds and smoke them, but they're not allowing my client to sell cigars in a sealed container," Novak said. "How does it contribute to an unhealthy environment to be walking around with a cigar box?"
"There's simply no law on the books that prevents tobacco from being sold to adults," Novak added. "It has nothing to do with whether you think tobacco is healthy or unhealthy. As long as there's no law making tobacco an illegal product, people should have a right to purchase it."
Business Journal - July 5, 2007
Retailers want cigarette taxes collected at Native American stores
Ads calling on Gov. Eliot Spitzer to collect taxes on cigarettes sold at Native American stores began airing Thursday in Albany, N.Y., and several other markets.
The ads are paid for by the New York Association of Convenience Stores. The retailers say they are losing money from the tens of thousands of New York smokers who travel to Native American stores to buy cigarettes at a cheaper price.
The ads seek to compel Spitzer to enforce a March 1, 2006 state law that mandates the taxes be collected. In addition to Albany, the ads will be broadcast in Syracuse and Buffalo.
Press - June 21, 2007
Senate votes to ban smoking in Atlantic City casinos
By Angela Delli Santi
TRENTON, N.J. - More than a year after New Jersey's wide-reaching public smoking ban went into effect, the state Senate voted Thursday to close its biggest loophole, which allows smoking in Atlantic City's casinos.
The Senate voted 35-0 to eliminate the exemption that allows gamblers to light up in casinos and horse race simulcasting facilities. The Assembly has yet to consider the bill.
New Jersey's Smoke-Free Air Act of 2006 bars cigarette, pipe and cigar smoking in most indoor places in the state, including shopping malls, office buildings, restaurants and bars.
"When we approved the Smoke-Free Air Act last session, we were told that adding casinos to the smoking ban would hurt the industry," said Sen. Shirley Turner, a co-sponsor of the wider-ranging bill. "However, as we've seen, the smoking ban in practice in New Jersey restaurants and bars, while it's taken some adjustment ... hasn't meant the end of the world."
If the law is revised to include casinos and race tracks, the only exemptions would be cigar bars, tobacco shops and private homes.
The Atlantic City Council in February adopted a citywide smoking ban, which requires at least 75 percent of a casino floor to be smoke-free. That law went into effect in April.
The city's 11 casinos complied in different ways, with at least five creating nongambling smoking lounges, where patrons can go to light up and then return to the tables or slots. Others decided to wall off sections of their casinos to allow some patrons to smoke while gambling.
Bill co-sponsor Sen. Joseph Vitale remained unsatisfied with the partial ban.
"Local efforts to control smoking in casinos have only shifted the problem from one area of the casino floor to another," said Vitale. "If we're serious about putting the health of New Jerseyans first, we simply cannot accept a smoking ban that provides loopholes for casinos."
Another anti-smoking measure also advanced Thursday.
The Senate approved a proposal that would make it illegal to smoke in cars in which children are riding. That bill, sponsored by Sen. Ray Lesniak, passed 27-2. It has yet to be introduced in the Assembly.
Journal News - June 16, 2007
Rockland bans smoking in cars with kids
By Sarah Netter
Thinking of lighting up while driving with your child in the back seat? Not a good idea - in Rockland, anyway.
County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef has signed a law making smoking in cars with children younger than 18 illegal, though he said he did it with reservations.
The law is the first of its kind in New York, said Dr. Jeffrey Oppenheim, the Rockland neurosurgeon who proposed the idea.
Oppenheim, president of the county Board of Health, called Vanderhoef's signature "a victory for every child in Rockland County."
Vanderhoef said yesterday that he initially planned to veto the bill because it came very close to regulating behavior, something he said he thought the government should never do. But the basis for the law was that children needed to be protected from the harmful effects of secondhand smoke, he said.
"Ultimately, that trumped all the other arguments," Vanderhoef said.
In his message to the county Legislature, Vanderhoef wrote: "Although privacy rights within one's own automobiles or other private domains are important, they are superceded by the welfare of the child, as in the enforcement of seat belt and children's car seat laws."
The law will take effect when it is filed with the New York secretary of state.
Angela DeFrancesco started smoking when she was 16. Now 74, the Nanuet resident hasn't smoked in 30 years and thinks the law is a good one.
"I just got disgusted with the taste and the smell on my clothes and the cough I had," she said.
When her children were small, DeFrancesco said, she smoked mostly "after hours."
"Mostly outside," her son Ron DeFrancesco agreed, as the two shopped for groceries yesterday in Nanuet.
Ron DeFrancesco, who lives in Brooklyn, remembered his father smoking in the car with him, but said he would put out his cigarette when asked. And his father would never smoke in the car with Ron DeFrancesco's asthmatic brother, he said.
"It does infringe on people's rights," he said of Rockland's law, "but you got to think of the right of the child, also."
Adults, he said, "can smoke when they get out of the car."
Tina Moro of New City also said she supported the law.
"I think it's a great idea," she said.
Moro has two children - 7-year-old twins - and has talked with them about the dangers of smoking to the point at which they worry about her friends who smoke.
Violations of the law are punishable by a fine of $75 to $100 for the first offense and $150 to $250 for second and subsequent violations.
In addition to the privacy issue, the law's opponents have said it would be tough to enforce.
Vanderhoef said he was not sure it could be enforced any better than the ban on driving while using a handheld cell phone, but hoped his approval of this law would serve to educate people that confining a child in a car with secondhand smoke was not in the child's best interest.
Oppenheim said he hoped other municipalities in New York would follow Rockland's lead.
Similar laws exist in Keyport, N.J.; Bangor, Maine; Arkansas; and Puerto Rico. Proposals have been made in several other states, including Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Pennsylvania.
Rockland already bans smoking in restaurants and bars, and the county Health Department has a program in place to encourage municipalities to ban smoking at parks and playgrounds.
Park Press - June 6, 2007
Rules would let towns bill to waive smoke rules
Inspectors charge to verify conditions
By Tom Baldwin
TRENTON (NJ) — Municipalities would be able to bill cigar bars and other smoking emporiums for sending out an inspector to make sure such establishments possess what's required to win exemptions from the state's smoking ban, under rules proposed this week.
"It would be like the way building inspectors work," said Tom Slater, spokesman for Health and Senior Services Commissioner Dr. Fred Jacobs, who issued a two-part proposed amendment to the controversial smoking law.
The amendment is like a formal suggestion, and the public has until Aug. 3 to comment on the two ideas. A municipal or other health department would be able to inspect the businesses seeking exemptions, and then the inspectors could bill those businesses.
"They had to say they met certain requirements, that it was 50 percent of their business, and they had the proper ventilation equipment, so the air wasn't sucked back in," Slater said of applicants for exemptions.
"It is up to each local health agency, that they can, if they wish, pass on the inspection costs," Slater said, noting they also may accept an application without an inspection.
William Dressel Jr., executive director of the New Jersey State League of Municipalities, welcomed the freedom for town halls to bill exemption-seekers. But he said mayors and councils do not appreciate performing functions mandated by the state — "so we are the bad guy," he said.
New Jersey Restaurant Association lobbyist Deborah Dowdell, who represents the cigar bars, had no comment. Nor did the anti-smoking lobby New Jersey GASP.
Armando Frallicciardi Jr., owner of Pete Lorenzo's Restaurant in Trenton, who said he's spending $25,000 so he can continue his popular, preban cigar suppers, which now must be held outdoors, said, "Anyone who is exempted as a cigar bar should have such a niche that I would think their business would be close to double in value."
Asked if there would be a cap of what municipal inspectors could charge business owners, Slater said, "These are the kind of things we are going to be looking at."
For close to 14 months, New Jersey has banned smoking in the work place except for the gaming floors of the Atlantic City casinos, embittering some casino employees. The city government adopted a ban that affects portions of casino floors.
10 Now - June 5, 2007
Oneida parks go smoke free
By Jim McCann
No more smoking in city parks and recreational facilities. The Oneida Common Council voted unanimously in favor of the policy that was brought to them by Oneida High School students.
Oneida Mayor Leo Matzke said this policy is good for the city.
"It's not a law, and I put it out that way because I'm not out for people because they smoke. What the purpose of this is to keep, especially around children, non-toxins in the air that comes about because of cigarette smoking," said Matzke.
But, some people say this policy may be taking it a little too far.
Oneida resident Allan Smith said, "I was always offended by people who would sit next to me and blow smoke on me, but I think getting outdoors, we're kind of pushing the envelope where we shouldn't be telling people what to do. It's public land. They pay their taxes the same as we do."
Now the question is how the city will enforce the policy of banning smoking in the parks. City officials said they will post signs that say “no smoking” and give out trespassing tickets to violators.
In the meantime, the students who came up with policy said they are excited by the council's decision but want the sidewalk by their high school to be smoke free as well.
Oneida Reality Check Club member David Watson said, "It really makes the city look bad because it’s on one of the main streets in Oneida. There's two schools on the same street, so a lot of people drive through there, and that's the impression they get in Oneida is they see all these kids out there smoking and polluting the air."
Oneida Daily Dispatch - June 4, 2007
Council to tackle smoking in city parks
By Leeanne Root
ONEIDA - The city is considering prohibiting smoking on outdoor property
owned by the city, including the city's parks.
The resolution states that, "There will be no smoking at places of employment where services are offered to children-cigarette butts and matches dropped in parks are dangerous to young children who step on them or ingest them while still hot."
Mayor Leo Matzke said that this is the right thing to do and pointed out the dangers of secondhand smoke.
"The main impetus behind this is a teenage group called Reality Check. There are so many statistics out there to show that even secondhand smoke can be deadly. It's a toxin, it's a pollutant," he said. "I know it's a very controversial item. The truth is the public, particularly children, have the right to clean air."
He said he fully expects people to come to Tuesday's council meeting and voice their opinions before the matter is decided by council.
"In a community where quality of life is important, certainly part of that is the quality of air within a community, particularly in its parks, so I just feel that this is the right thing to do," Matzke said. "I am assuming there will be people there that have a different point of view and that's good, I think that's very good."
If passed by council, the policy would apply to all employees, residents and visitors. Individuals in violation will be reminded of the policy and asked not to smoke until they are in a designated area.
Sun - May 25, 2007
Officials Butting In on Cigarette Counterfeits
By Christopher Faherty
Campaigns to end the stream of illegal cigarettes into New York City, a black market that has been used to supply funding to terrorist organizations, are being launched on the city, state, and federal levels, according to lawmakers and law enforcement officials.
"New York is the perfect storm for the cigarette black market," a vice president of SICPA Product Security, Scott Bessette, said. It has "a high tax rate going higher, many points of entry including large ports, state and international borders, and a lack of tools to effectively monitor and enforce the market," Mr. Bessette, whose company investigates counterfeits around the world, said.
The demand for illegal cigarettes will only get worse, a number of experts concurred, if Mayor Bloomberg is able to implement a 50-cent a pack tax hike.
To combat the illegal trade, the chairman of the City Council's public safety committee, Peter Vallone, a Democrat of Queens, is leading a charge to modernize the tax stamps placed on each pack of cigarettes. The current stamps, which experts say are easily counterfeited, provide proof that state and city taxes have been paid.
Mr. Vallone plans to introduce a resolution in the council this spring. "We're using an antiquated technology to make these stamps," Mr. Vallone said.
By placing counterfeit stamps on cigarettes, criminal organizations can pocket the $1.50 tax on each pack that would otherwise go to state and city governments. The New York State Department of Health estimated that the state lost about $400 million in tax revenue in 2004 due to untaxed cigarettes.
In the Legislature, a senator of Erie County, Dale Volker, is revising a bill he introduced in 2005 that would mandate that wholesalers, who are in charge of collecting state and city taxes and stamping cigarettes, use high-tech stamps with bar codes.
The stamps would be difficult to counterfeit, and also allow law enforcement to trace cigarettes from their source with the use of scanners, Mr. Volker said. He said he hopes the bill will pass in June as part of the state's supplemental budget.
In 2004, California enacted similar legislation; during calendar year 2005, the state reported an additional $73 million in cigarette taxes, according to a state official.
Cigarette companies such as Phillip Morris USA are lobbying against Mr. Volker's proposed bill, which would require them to pay a half-cent-a-pack fee to offset the costs of the new technology.
A spokesman for Phillip Morris, Bill Phelps, said that while the company supports enforcement against illegal cigarettes, it doesn't believe the new stamps will address the issue. Phillip Morris's "retail buying" anti-fraud program found that criminals in California were easily able to counterfeit the new stamps, Mr. Phelps said.
On the federal level, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms recently created a task force made up of federal agents and local vice squad officers to combat what it sees as the three major aspects of tobacco fraud: the manufacturing of fake tax stamps, the importation of counterfeit cigarettes from abroad, and the sale of untaxed cigarettes on Indian reservations.
Counterfeit cigarettes, which are manufactured abroad and shipped to America, present a separate problem. Placed in packs that resemble familiar brands such as Marlboros or Camels, counterfeits are especially detrimental because not only are the cigarettes not taxed, they are not inspected for content or quality, a spokesman for the ATF, Joseph Green, said.
In the past several years, the ATF has busted several criminal organizations selling counterfeit cigarettes, a majority of which arrived in America via China and North Korea, Mr. Green said.
Last August, federal prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney's office in Brooklyn charged a criminal ring with smuggling untaxed and counterfeit cigarettes into the city from a Long Island Indian reservation, and funneling the proceeds to Hezbollah, a terrorist group in Lebanon.
Post - May 25, 2007
Institute Urges Extensive Smoking Deterrents
By Christopher Lee
In the 43 years since the U.S. surgeon general warned of the dangers of cigarette smoking, the percentage of Americans who light up has been cut in half, tobacco companies have paid billions of dollars in legal settlements and smoking has come to be widely reviled as a nasty habit.
But that is not enough -- not when there are 440,000 deaths a year from tobacco use and $89 billion annually in smoking-related health costs, the influential Institute of Medicine said yesterday in a report that called for several new measures to further drive down tobacco use. The institute is a branch of the National Academies, a scientific organization chartered by Congress to advise the government on scientific and technical issues.
"There are still 45 million cigarette smokers and another 9.7 million users of other tobacco products," said Richard J. Bonnie, a University of Virginia law professor who led the panel of 14 experts that produced the report. "Most of them regret having taken up the habit and struggle to quit. The nation's goal should be to reduce tobacco use so substantially that it is no longer a significant public health problem."
To that end, the report calls for state and local governments to ban smoking in malls, restaurants and virtually all other public indoor settings, and for the Food and Drug Administration to regulate the marketing, packaging and sale of tobacco products. The panel also recommended raising excise taxes on cigarettes by as much as $2 a pack and developing a federal plan to gradually reduce the amount of nicotine in cigarettes so that they are no longer addictive.
About 21 percent of all adults smoke today, compared with nearly 42 percent in 1965, the year Congress required cigarette packages to carry a health warning. Youth smoking also has declined substantially in recent years. About 12 percent of high school seniors were daily smokers in 2006, compared with 17 percent in 1992 and 23 percent in 1999, the report said. Experts noted that youth smoking rates fluctuate more than adult rates.
The IOM report heartened members of Congress who have again introduced legislation that would grant the FDA authority over the manufacturing, marketing and sale of tobacco products, including the power to restrict advertising, require stronger warning labels, and regulate the amount of nicotine and other ingredients.
The legislation, which has bipartisan support, would also give the FDA power to end vending-machine and self-service sales of tobacco, prohibit tobacco advertising near schools, ban fruit- or candy-flavored cigarettes and stop cigarette makers from using claims such as "light" or "low-tar" unless they are scientifically proved.
"It's disgraceful that year after year, Congress has bowed to the tobacco lobby," Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), a lead sponsor of the bill, said in a statement. "Hopefully the IOM's powerful call to action will be the irresistible force that finally compels the Senate and House to act."
The legislation has the backing of market leader Philip Morris USA, maker of Marlboro cigarettes, but R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. plans to fight it, saying it would help entrench Philip Morris's dominant position by limiting advertising opportunities.
In a statement yesterday, Philip Morris said that it would oppose substantial increase in excise taxes and that states should devote more money from the 1998 tobacco settlement to smoking cessation and youth smoking prevention. In February, the Government Accountability Office reported that states had devoted only 3.5 percent of the $52.6 billion they received in tobacco payments between 2000 and 2005 to tobacco control efforts.
"The IOM's recommended actions to combat youth smoking could more quickly be addressed by tapping into this existing funding source -- rather than attempting to create a new one," said Howard Willard, an executive vice president of Philip Morris USA.
Other recommendations from the IOM experts included banning online sales of tobacco products; limiting tobacco advertising and displays to black-and-white, text-only formats; requiring picture warnings on cigarettes; and restricting the number of retail outlets that can sell tobacco and requiring that they obtain a license to do so. The experts said that such measures could help cut the share of adults who smoke to 10 percent by 2025, meaning 11 million fewer people would be smokers.
"What the report makes clear is that unless the states dramatically increase their level of activity, we can't expect significant further progress in reducing the death from tobacco," said Matthew L. Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, who was not on the panel. "And even if the states do so, we won't achieve our major public health goal unless the federal government enters the fray."
& Sun-Bulletin - May 18, 2007
Smoking snuffed on playgrounds
By Nancy Dooling
Broome County Executive Barbara Fiala will sign a new law today that immediately bans smoking in playground areas and around athletic fields and spectator areas in all of Broome County's parks, including the softball field at Broome Community College.
Broome County legislators approved the ban late Thursday. A measure to ban smoking in all areas of county parks, pushed by Chris Kuzel, R-Johnson City, failed to win approval Thursday.
The new law will go into effect on Friday when Fiala will meet with health officials and anti-smoking advocates at Otsiningo Park to announce the ban.
The measure had originally included banning smoking in areas only around playgrounds. But legislators on Thursday voted to add athletic fields and spectator areas, including bleachers, to the ban. A request was made to extend the smoking ban at the softball field at BCC, which is owned by the county, legislators said, and that request was approved.
Broome County has eight parks, including Nathaniel Cole in the Town of Colesville; Dorchester in the Town of Triangle; Finch Hollow in the Town of Maine; Greenwood in the Town of Nanticoke; Grippen and Roundtop in the Village of Endicott; Hawkins Pond in the Town of Windsor; and Otsiningo in the Town of Dickinson.
Journal News - May 15, 2007
Rockland Legislature approves smoking ban in cars
By Sarah Netter
The Rockland County Legislature voted unanimously tonight to ban smoking in cars with children under age 18 present.
The Legislature is the first in New York to approve such a law, health board President Jeffrey Oppenheim said. Similar legislation already exists in Keyport, N.J., Bangor, Maine and Arkansas.
To become effective the law has to be signed by County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef within 30 days. He has not said whether he will sign it.
- May 11, 2007
Gaming revenues in Atlantic City decline in April
By William H. Sokolic
Frank Russo and Arleen Wilk huddled in front of the $2 slot machines in a section of Borgata's casino floor, an area designated for smoking in the massive gaming floor.
The Staten Island couple sought out the smoking permitted signs in the wake of a local law which required each casino to limit smokers to 25 percent of the gaming floor by April 15. Russo, a retiree, supports the restrictions. "I think it's a really good idea. Let's be honest. Smoking isn't nice."
Casinos have resorted to a mixture of maps, overhead signage, signs on table games and stickers on machines to alert the public. Bally's color codes smoking sections with green signs, nonsmoking with red.
David Bond, of Kempton, Pa., in the Lehigh Valley, says the ban will hurt Atlantic City. "Gamblers are by nature smokers," said Bond, 58, standing in a smoking section of Bally's. "I'd cut back on the number of times I come."
Others may well have done that already based on April gaming revenues released Thursday by the New Jersey Casino Control Commission.
Casinos won $396.8 million, a 9.9 percent decrease over the same month a year ago. How much smoking contributed to the slide is anyone's guess. Slot machines at racinos in Pennsylvania were likely a more important impediment. Cold, damp weather also plagued April. So did the calendar. Last April contained an extra Saturday, the busiest day in the week.
"It's difficult to distinguish the impact of smoking versus competition from Pennsylvania," said Anthony Rodio, regional president of the Hilton and Resorts casinos. Add escalating gas prices and it's hard to say where one element ends and the other begins, he said. Resorts revenue declined 7.4 percent; Hilton fell 8.6 percent.
The smoking restrictions may mean fewer bus excursions, which mean a decline in fringe gamblers, a not unwelcome situation, said Joel H. Simkins, vice president and senior gaming analyst for Prudential Equity Group, LLC.
"If you're losing unprofitable revenue, that's OK," he said.
Truth is, it's too early to tell the impact of the smoking restrictions, said Joseph Weinert, senior vice president of Spectrum Gaming Group, a casino consulting firm. "I suspect the restrictions as we now have it will be a minimal impact, if at all. When the city goes to an outright ban, and that's inevitable at some point, we'll see an impact."
Under the city law, the casinos will have to create separate walled smoking areas or smoking lounges. Plans must be submitted to the state by the fall.
"We're hard at work on permanent locations, but we've made no decision yet," said Larry Mullin, president and chief operating officer of Borgata, which experienced a drop of 3.4 percent in April.
George Berg smoked a cigar while his wife played slots in an area set aside for smoking at the Tropicana, which saw a decline of 13.4 percent.
"I come here on vacation and part of it is to enjoy a good cigar," said Berg, a lawyer from Whitehall outside Allentown, Pa. "If I have to go to a lounge, separated from my wife, I would probably go to the Poconos or Philadelphia Park instead."
Slot revenue decreased by 12.3 percent in April while table revenues slid 3.1 percent. The disparity clearly speaks to the effect of slots-only Pennsylvania. For the first four months of the year, casinos won $1.6 million, down 4.1 percent from the same period in 2006. Revenue from slot machines fell 6.8 percent; table games revenue for the year is up 3.1 percent compared to last year. Win, or casino revenue, is the net amount of money won by casinos. It is not profit.
Nonsmokers like Barbara Lawlor, 60, of Edgewater, appreciate the partial ban.
"Sometimes the smoke was overpowering and bothered my eyes," she said as she played slots in the nonsmoking section of Bally's, where revenues slipped 10.4 percent. "I can breathe now. I don't begrudge smokers but they should have a specific area."
The American Cancer Society and other anti-smoking organizations have criticized casinos for what they call broken promises to let dealers opt out of working in smoking areas. Casino officials from Resorts, Hilton and Harrah's Entertainment's four casinos concede that point.
"We rotate as we did before the smoking law went into effect," said Alyce Parker, a spokeswoman for Harrah's Entertainment which owns four casinos in the city.
Resorts and Hilton also rotate dealers. Rodio says the casino cannot accommodate all requests for nonsmoking only. Not every dealer can work Asian games like Pai Gow Poker.
Star-Ledger - May 11, 2007
Atlantic City gambling revenue dives 10%
By Judy DeHaven
As if horrible weather, one less Saturday night, competition from neighboring states and a partial smoking ban weren't bad enough, many of the Atlantic City casinos hit a streak of bad luck at the tables last month.
And that created a recipe for disaster. Revenue at the 11 gambling parlors plunged nearly 10 percent in April, with all but two casinos reporting decreases.
In all, the Atlantic City casinos won $396.8 million from gamblers last month. That includes $284.4million from slot machines, down 12.3 percent, and $112.4million from table games, a decrease of 3.1 percent.
Bally's, Tropicana and the three Trump casinos -- the Marina, Plaza and Taj Mahal -- reported double-digit decreases. The Taj was especially hard hit at the tables, where revenue fell 27 percent.
The two gambling parlors that reported gains were Harrah's, up 1.9 percent, and Caesars, which increased 15.3 percent. Caesars was the one casino in April that got lucky. Table revenues soared 52.5 percent.
A.C. has been struggling in the face of competition from Pennsylvania and New York slot parlors, which have opened in the last six months. And industry experts expect 2007 will be the first time revenue will decline in A.C.'s history. For the first four months of the year, revenue has fallen 4.1 percent.
Still, a 10 percent drop in a single month was more than most expected.
"This is a number that is going to cause some serious, near-term concern in the investment community," said Joe Weinert, vice president of Spectrum Gaming Group. "When the best properties in slot operations are flat, that's a discouraging sign."
Also last month, the city had to contend with a partial smoking ban. On April 15, casinos had to post signs making 75 percent of their gambling floors smoke free. Ultimately, the casinos will have to wall off permanent smoking areas.
But Weinert said it was hard to tell how much of an effect the partial ban had on revenues.
The bigger problem, he said, were the Pennsylvania slot parlors.
"Clearly the culprits lie just across the Delaware River," he said.
- May 9, 2007
Rye Playland Becomes No-Smoking Environment
Mt. Kisco, NY - It will be a breath of fresh air – literally – when visitors enter Playland Amusement Park on Opening Day, this Saturday, May 12. That’s because the entire amusement area has now been designated as no-smoking.
“We all know the effects that smoking has on smokers and from second-hand smoke, and it is time we lead by example for all the children and families who visit Playland” said County Executive Andy Spano. “We are proud of the amusement park and we are always looking for ways to make it better and safer for visitors – especially children, teens and young adults.”
Prior to this new regulation, smoking had been banned in Kiddyland and on all ride queue lines for several years.
Spano explained that smoking is now no longer allowed anywhere inside the gates of the amusement area which has three entrances and exits. There are signs posted and County Police will enforce this new smoking ban.
Designated smoking areas outside of the amusement area are located at the Fountain Plaza near the ATM machine, the Seaside Walk behind the catered outing picnic groves, and outside the gates adjacent to the Music Tower. Cigarette butt receptacles are available at these areas.
Playland Amusement Park will officially open on Saturday, May 12 and be open on weekends at noon until Memorial Day weekend.
Sun - May 3, 2007
Most New Yorkers Fail Effort To Quit Smoking
Of city smokers who tried to quit last year, 80% — or 500,000 smokers — resumed within three months, according to a new Health Department survey.
Almost half of smokers said they relapsed because of stressful situations, while 20% started smoking again during social situations when alcohol was present.
The Health Department data are based on a phone survey of 2,400 smokers contacted during August and September 2006.
The Health Department also reported yesterday that it has given away more than 5,500 nicotine patches and nearly 700 packs of gum since it launched its giveaway program last week.
Press - April 25, 2007
New bans on smoking target cars, amusement parks
By Wayne Parry
KEYPORT, N.J. -- The already small number of places where smokers can legally light up in New Jersey got even smaller this week, with new laws banning smoking inside cars with children in Keyport, and in most of the Great Adventure amusement parks in Jackson.
Keyport, a Monmouth County-based shore community, is the first in New Jersey to take smoking restrictions into the private realm of the automobile.
"We're not trying to use the power of the motor vehicle system to punish people into behaving the way we want them to," said Mayor Robert Bergen. "This ordinance is really intended to be a positive public policy statement about the need to take care of our kids.
"The Surgeon General's report clearly documents the dangers of secondhand smoke, particularly on young people," he said. "It's really not good for children."
But Audrey Silk, the founder of a New York smokers' rights group, says Keyport is overstepping its authority.
"A car is an extension of your personal property," said Silk, whose group, NYC Clash, stands for Citizens Lobbying Against Smoker Harassment and is active in New Jersey as well. "For the government to regulate what you can do in your own private property, everybody should be afraid of that."
The moves come as public and legislative sentiment has swung dramatically against smoking in New Jersey. A year ago, the state passed a sweeping anti-smoking ban prohibiting smokers from lighting up in public places and workplaces.
It exempted Atlantic City's 11 casinos, fearing a smoking ban would harm a crucial component of New Jersey's tourism industry. But the city council in Atlantic City passed an ordinance that took effect on April 15 limiting smoking to no more than 25 percent of the casino floor.
Bergen said Keyport's ordinance, which was approved Tuesday, gives the police department wide discretion to let violators off with a warning instead of the $75 ticket the measure authorizes. He said he expects the borough will not issue more than a handful of summonses each year.
Police also must have stopped the car for some other reason before being allowed to write a ticket for smoking with children in the car.
"I think it's a good idea," said Gina Nasta, who waited until he daughter had gotten out of the car outside Keyport Central School on Wednesday morning before lighting a cigarette. "I never smoke in the car when there's kids. I don't think anybody should."
Another Central School mother, Michelle Parks, also supports the ordinance. Her kids, aged 7 and 9, got her to quit smoking several years ago.
"Kids don't have a choice. Why would you subject them to something toxic?" she asked.
The issue is being debated nationwide. California has a measure pending that would outlaw smoking in cars when children are present, and Arkansas and Louisiana already have passed similar laws.
Some New Jersey legislators are also considering a statewide ban on the practice here.
At Great Adventure, the sprawling amusement complex in Jackson that includes a ride park, water park and drive-through safari park, smoking has been restricted to a series of designated areas since the complex opened for the season on April 2.
So far, the park has ejected 93 violators and refused them a refund on their admission tickets, which can cost as much as $84.99.
The park asked the Jackson Township Council to enact an ordinance backing up their policy with fines of $250 for a first offense, $500 for a second offense, and $1,000 for subsequent offenses.
The council approved the ordinance Tuesday night.
A Great Adventure spokeswoman did not immediately return a call seeking comment Wednesday.
- April 25, 2007
City Launches New Anti-Smoking Campaign
The city health department launched a new initiative Wednesday aimed at getting New Yorkers to stop smoking – one that includes another round of very graphic television commercials.
Ronaldo Martinez – the star of an unforgettable anti-smoking campaign that began airing in New York last year – is featured in the new campaign, intended to further scare people into quitting smoking.
The health department says it is actually more effective to highlight the often crippling effects that smoking can cause while alive, than to tell people that cigarettes kill.
“I'm a physician. I've taken care of people who have been gasping for every single breath because of smoking – people who have lost toes, legs because of smoking, people who have had strokes and are unable to speak because of smoking, people who have had heart attacks and can’t even walk across the room because of smoking. That's the reality of smoking,” said NYC Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Frieden. “Showing that reality helps people firm their resolve to quit.”
NY1 took an unscientific poll on the streets of New York to see if the ads could shock smokers into quitting.
"I know when I smoke I’m making a decision to ultimately kill myself,” said one smoker. “Does it affect me? No, not really."
"It's difficult to watch,” said another smoker. “I've seen the old ones and I know personally, I just change the channel."
If the ads aren't enough to get New Yorkers to quit, smokers may soon find a message from Martinez in their e-mail inbox.
Martinez, who speaks through a mechanical voice box after having his larynx removed, will appear in new internet ads that New Yorkers can e-mail to their favorite smoker.
Officials say the public needs to see the graphic ads, which will be on TV, radio, subways and kiosks in both English and Spanish.
As part of the new campaign, the health department will also give out nicotine patches and gum at no cost to smokers. Studies show that one third of smokers quit when using those aides.
To request the patches or gum call 311.
Newsday - April 20, 2007
Spitzer behind effort to curb youth smoking
By James T. Madore
As part of a plan to improve children's health, Gov. Eliot Spitzer Friday called for banning flavored or "starter" cigarettes that allegedly encourage youths to take up smoking.
The move comes six months after Spitzer, as state attorney general, helped to negotiate a nationwide agreement with R.J. Reynolds, in which the tobacco giant voluntarily agreed to stop identifying cigarettes with candy, fruit, desserts or alcoholic beverage names such as "Twista Lime" and "Winter Warm Toffee."
The company, however, denied marketing to children.
"We got them to agree not to market and label in a way that was designed to target kids but they are still doing it," Spitzer said in Manhattan, referring to cigarette-makers in general.
Smoking has been linked to cancer. Spitzer, a Democrat, estimated 700,000 children begin smoking each year, with 220,000 expected to die prematurely.
"This is a crisis. We must take aggressive action to reduce these numbers," he told the Rev. Al Sharpton's National Action Network.
Details of the proposed ban weren't available. But sources said Spitzer wasn't targeting R.J. Reynolds but other cigarette companies selling to kids.
R.J. Reynolds spokesman David Howard emphasized the company only targets "adults who understand the risks and have decided they want to smoke." He also questioned why Spitzer was pursuing an outright ban of flavored cigarettes rather than voluntary agreements such as the one he hammered out with R.J. Reynolds in October.
The anti-smoking bill is part of the freshman governor's so-called "children's agenda," which also calls for restricting the sale of violent video games to minors, and serving nutritious food in schools.
State lawmakers also are .touting measures to aid youth.
Earlier this week, the Republican-controlled Senate revived its task force on video game .violence. And Sen. Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) is pushing a bill to replace soda and candy in schools with nutritious alternatives such as fruit.
Newsday - April 12, 2007
If LI raises taxes on cigarettes, Bloomberg will follow suit
By Emi Endo
Mayor Michael Bloomberg repeated Wednesday his wish to raise the city's cigarette tax by 50 cents if Nassau and Suffolk actually succeed in enacting their own $2 tax.
The city, which introduced a $1.50 per pack tax in 2002, is seeking state approval to bump it to $2.
"You don't want to have different taxes at different levels because then people can go across the border to buy cigarettes and take business, which we'd like to have here," Bloomberg said at a news conference at Leonardo Da Vinci IS 61 in Corona, Queens.
He may not have to worry, though, since the state Senate is blowing off the idea of a new tax for the counties.
"We are opposed to tax increases, period," said John McArdle, a spokesman for the Republican Senate majority. As for the cigarette tax in particular, he said there was "no support for that" in the Senate.
A group of Nassau elected officials support a bill sponsored by State Assemb. Earlene Hooper (D-Hempstead) that would authorize Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester and other counties to impose a cigarette tax.
The taxes would drive the price of many cigarettes to about $7 a pack.
Bloomberg said raising taxes on tobacco could prevent young people from smoking.
"You raise the price of cigarettes, you cut down on consumption for young people," he said. "For adults, sadly, it's not quite as much of an economic incentive."
Newsday - April 9, 2007
Don't legislate our smokes and vices
By Columnist Raymond J. Keating
Liberals say they don't like it when one group imposes its morals or way of life on others. Well, that is unless they are the group doing the imposing.
In fact, liberals, also known as progressives, have long used government to dictate what others should do. The latest crusade has to do with health.
Consider the State of the County address given by Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi last month. He proclaimed: "There is no way I can force you to quit smoking, to eat a balanced diet, and I can't make you avoid fat or start exercising. You have to do it. We can, however, seek a state-authorized cigarette tax modeled after New York City, as proposed by Presiding Officer Judy Jacobs, to discourage smoking."
He also called for a trans-fats ban in restaurants and promised to get the county involved in more physical fitness endeavors. The county executive encourages "all residents to exercise at least 30 minutes a day" and supports "holistic approaches to physical and mental health."
Who knew all of this was in the county executive's job description?
Suozzi is following in the steps of Mayor Michael Bloomberg. During his reign as city health czar, Bloomberg has jacked up the city's cigarette tax from 8 cents a pack to $1.50 and banned trans fats in Big Apple eateries.
Now, Suozzi and Jacobs want state approval to impose a $2-a-pack cigarette tax in the county, while New York City seeks another increase, to $2, as well.
We've been down this path before. Read the new book by Michael Lerner titled "Dry Manhattan: Prohibition in New York City." Lerner notes that banning the manufacture, sale and transport of alcohol through a constitutional amendment, which commenced in 1920 at the end of the Progressive Era, was meant to "morally uplift the people of the United States, ultimately creating a healthy citizenry, safer cities and workplaces and a more efficient society." Has a familiar ring, doesn't it?
Prohibition, though, didn't exactly work out as planned. Americans, especially New Yorkers, quickly resented big government's paternalism and ineptitude. Lerner's account of the era provides a reminder of Prohibition's consequences.
The rule of law was undermined. The public's respect for the police suffered, while the costs of law enforcement skyrocketed. Drinking and alcoholism actually became bigger problems. The underground economy flourished. Corruption and crime - including murder and gangland violence - spread.
Indeed, Prohibition was a boon for organized crime. Lerner tells of the "daunting problem of competition among organized criminals who battled for control of the city's profitable liquor and beer markets during the late 1920s." It was sometimes quite bloody.
The risks of supplying a banned product are high, but so are the potential profits. Similarly, jack up taxes on goods to astronomical levels and the incentives to avoid those taxes become quite powerful.
A 2004 report from the Government Accounting Office noted: "Many states ... have increased cigarette taxes, resulting in a large difference in the wholesale price and the price paid by consumers at the retail level and creating potential illicit profits of $7 to $13 per carton of cigarettes."
The results should be obvious. The report stated: "As cigarette taxes increase, so do the incentives for criminal organizations, including terrorist organizations, to smuggle cigarettes into and throughout the United States."
Perhaps Suozzi and Bloomberg would do better working to rein in the size and cost of government rather than expanding it according to the latest progressive crusade. Let information go forth as to what's healthy and what's not, and let the people decide. If someone wants a rich meal, a stiff drink and a smoke, that's his or her business, not the government's.
Philadelphia Inquirer - April 8, 2007
N.J.'s smoking ban blamed
Some firms and organizations say they make far less a year after the law took effect. But lawmakers say benefits are
worth the cost.
By Edward Colimore
Jon Perper says he'll close his Woodcrest bowling center in June and knows of about 10 other New Jersey centers expected to follow.
Deborah Dowdell, president of the New Jersey Restaurant Association, says hundreds of restaurants, bars and taverns have seen sales decline, by as much as 50 percent; others have closed in the last year.
Meanwhile, many veterans' posts, fraternal organizations, billiard parlors, and charitable bingo and raffle groups have watched their take drop.
A year after the state's indoor public smoking ban went into effect, employers and organizations across New Jersey are complaining that their business has gone up in smoke.
Smoking customers - especially from Pennsylvania - are staying home or taking their patronage to Philadelphia's suburbs, where there is no ban, business owners say. Indoor public smoking also is prohibited in Philadelphia.
But New Jersey lawmakers said they had seen little if any negative effect in the state and are unlikely to adjust the ban, unless it is to eliminate the exemption for casinos.
"The Legislature would have to see data before it would be prepared to subject people to the health risks of indoor smoke," said Assemblyman Herb Conaway Jr. (D., Burlington), a physician and sponsor of the ban. "It would be a very tough road to travel."
Another sponsor, Sen. John Adler (D., Camden), said similar smoking restrictions had worked in New York and California with no economic disruption. A ban is being considered in Pennsylvania.
"There is no reason it won't work in New Jersey," Adler said. "People have to adjust their personal habits to abide by the law."
The law's first year "has been almost entirely good," he added. "It's hard to quantify lives saved and illnesses avoided."
Many business owners, however, say they have had no trouble quantifying financial losses.
"We immediately saw a dramatic hit in the bar part of our business," Finnigan's, said Perper, 52, as he sat in an empty Finnigan's in Cherry Hill's Woodcrest Shopping Center. "This was like Cheers. People would come here after work and watch the bowling" through a big window behind the bar.
"But business dropped off 20 percent compared to the same time the year before. I also saw a 10 percent drop in open play at night. I knew what it was immediately. . . . The smoking law has improved the environment in the bowling centers unfortunately at the cost of doing business."
Perper, chairman of the political action committee for the 35-member New Jersey Bowling Proprietors Association, said his losses and slim profit margin had forced his decision to close the center, which his father opened in 1960.
He plans to sell the liquor license and concentrate on reshaping his Playdrome on Kings Highway in Cherry Hill into a family entertainment center with bowling, billiards, and rides and other attractions for children, he said. He also owns bowling centers in Pennsville, N.J., where the landlord has helped by lowering the rent, and in Devon and Allentown.
His centers in New Jersey "have a high customer base from Pennsylvania, where there is no smoking ban," said Perper, who said he had lost about $500,000 in gross revenue at the Cherry Hill and Woodcrest locations in the last year. "If we had smoking and Pennsylvania didn't, they would be flocking over here."
While the law exempts casinos, Atlantic City has taken measures that are soon expected to require 75 percent of the gambling floors to be smoke-free. Some New Jersey legislators, including Adler, also have sponsored legislation to eliminate the casino exemption.
Adler, Conaway, and other ban proponents, including the American Cancer Society and the Summit-based New Jersey GASP (Group Against Smoking Pollution), argue that the health benefits far outweigh any inconveniences. In New Jersey, an estimated 2,000 people die of secondhand smoke each year, according to the American Cancer Society.
While having benefits, the Legislature's action also has disadvantages, according to the state hospitality industry, which brought in $3.9 billion last year.
Dowdell, of the New Jersey Restaurant Association, which represents 1,200 members, said hundreds of the state's 23,000 eating and drinking establishments had been hurt.
While many others reported no financial impact or even a slight increase in sales, business at places depending more heavily on liquor sales dropped "anywhere from 5 to 50 percent," Dowdell said.
Among them is the traditional corner tavern, "where people would go to smoke, meet friends and have a burger," she said. "Now they're saying, 'If I can't smoke, I'll buy a six-pack and have a cookout at home.' . . .
"You can't unring the bell. For some, the damage is done."
Eleanore Travia, former owner of Illusions, a go-go bar in Florence, knows firsthand. After the number of customers declined precipitously, she closed her doors Feb. 1 and put the business up for sale.
"My business was down 65 percent on April 16 last year - the day after the law went into effect - and it never came back," said Travia, 64, whose family owned the bar since the 1950s.
"I had a friendly neighborhood place. To hell with these people," she said, referring to smoking-ban supporters. "My $40,000 in sales tax is gone. I had 15 employees regularly and 150 dancers over the course of the year. Does New Jersey care they don't have jobs? They don't care. I would have stayed another 15 years, but now I'm done with New Jersey."
Organizations that depend on games to raise money also have been hit. Attendance at bingo games in the state has dropped 25 percent to 30 percent, said William Yorke, a regulatory compliance consultant and retired executive director of the state's Legalized Games of Chance Control Commission.
"The typical bingo player is a smoker," said Yorke, vice president of product development for Continental State Fair Bingo in Belleville, N.J., which provides bingo supplies and instant raffle tickets.
As a lobbyist for the bowling centers, Dennis M. Culnan Sr. tried to persuade legislators to allow the construction of ventilated smoking rooms, such as those in New York and Maryland.
He sent a bowling shoe to every lawmaker to make a point: Bowlers can't go outside to smoke because their leather-bottom shoes can get damp and become slip-and-fall hazards when they return to the hardwood lanes.
"That problem - over liability - makes the bowling centers unique," Culnan said.
Jon Kroljic, general manager and vice president of Perper's Woodcrest Playdrome, said he'd be sorry to leave the business where he has had so many pleasant memories.
"It's been home to me. Everybody knows your name here," he said. "You don't feel like a stranger."
Bowler Henry Baldyga, 82, of Voorhees, was the first customer to cast a ball down an alley at the Woodcrest bowling center - and he plans to be the last.
"I bowled at other places over the years, but this was the best," he said. "I'm very disappointed."
Newsday - April 7, 2007
Example of no-smoking compliance
By Reid J. Epstein
If Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi wants to see what a smoking ban would look like at the county's parks and beaches, he need look only to Oyster Bay, which has had a smoking restriction since 2003.
Smoking at the town's parks and beaches is restricted to designated areas, and violators risk a fine of up to $250 or five days in jail. But the harsh penalties belie the reality: In four years, no one in Oyster Bay has ever been issued a ticket for illegal smoking in the parks.
"I don't want to go down in history as the town supervisor who put somebody in jail for smoking," said Supervisor John Venditto, himself a smoker.
No-smoking signs are posted throughout the parks and beaches, and parks employees who see people smoking outside of designated areas will politely ask the smoker to snuff out the cigarette, Venditto said. But there is no smoking court or puff police patrolling the parks.
"You have to be practical about this," Venditto said. "This is really not about punishing people as it is about getting compliance."
The Town of Huntington also has a smoking ban at its playgrounds, and like Oyster Bay, has never issued a fine. When asked, Town Councilman Mark Cuthbertson didn't even initially know the amount of the fine. (It's $75).
Mary Curtis, Suozzi's deputy county executive for health and human services, said the county's idea to ban smoking outdoors at parks and beaches would likely operate the same way as the town laws.
"It's not a revenue generator," she said. "The research shows that exposure to second-hand smoke for as little as 30 minutes can have negative consequences."
Oyster Bay's smoking restriction came at the urging of Claire Millman, a Plainview woman who is the president of Alliance for Smoke-Free Air. She said that once the town erected no-smoking signs in the parks, smoking effectively ceased there.
"The outdoor bans are self-enforcing because most people who see the signs posted will obey the law," she said.
Venditto, who smokes menthol cigarettes, said he supports efforts to ban smoking in county parks but can't hack a proposed $2 per pack cigarette tax.
"I believe it's a bit excessive," he said of the tax. "All other measures in the name of clean air, those I'm very, very strongly in favor of."
News - April 6, 2007
State’s new health commissioner targets priorities
Hyde Park -- New York State Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Richard Daines said he will focus on obesity and nutrition, smoking and tobacco, and the budget and healthcare appropriations during his first year in the position.
During a visit to Dutchess County Thursday, Daines said that the issues really haven’t changed much, but there needs to be more attention given to them.
“The single most preventable cause of disease in this country is smoking, tobacco, and we can’t say because there is something in the headlines this week that we can take our eyes off tobacco. Obesity and nutrition are major problems that are going to have major life, personal, and economic impacts in the future. So we need to be focusing on that.”
Daines said his administration will shift the focus to primary preventative care and education. “That is what I’m trying to do this week is see what happens when the governor puts $2 or $3 million more into a program like childhood lead poison prevention, or into pre-natal home visiting programs. What does that mean? What actually happens out in people’s lives?”
Daines also visited the Emergency Response Center during a tour of the county earlier that day, and said he was impressed with the facilities and the overall cooperation among health, fire, and police services in the county.
He said he is extremely satisfied with the program in Dutchess County, and has complete faith in emergency preparedness in other counties around the Hudson Valley as well.
Post-Standard - April 5, 2007
No Tobacco Sales at Fair
Events at fairgrounds cannot have tobacco industry sponsorship
By Maureen Nolan
Visitors to the New York State Fair this year can still buy a sausage sandwich, cheese fries, fried dough and beer, but they can't spend a dime on tobacco.
"In an effort to continue to make New York state the healthiest state in the nation, we have determined that the sale of tobacco products is not appropriate on the New York State Fairgrounds and we want to encourage people to participate in a healthy lifestyle," fair Executive Director Dan O'Hara said Wednesday.
Tobacco products will no longer be sold at any event at the fairgrounds, not just during the fair, he said.
Nor will tobacco companies be allowed to sponsor any events on the fairgrounds, he said. That means the U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Company, which has sponsored a rodeo at the fair for the last several years and paid $9,000 to do so last year, won't be back for 2007.
"There will be a rodeo. We'll just get a new sponsor," O'Hara said.
The state fair will continue to allow smoking in certain locations around the fairgrounds, he said.
Gov. Eliot Spitzer is pushing to make New York the healthiest state, O'Hara said.
He had a conference call with state Agriculture Commissioner Patrick Hooker and Health Commissioner Dr. Richard Daines last week, and they all agreed to end tobacco sales, he said.
Last year, three vendors sold tobacco at five different locations around the fairgrounds, according to O'Hara. That's out of 810 "points of sale." He said he did not have figures on how much tobacco vendors sold.
The fair notified them they could no longer sell tobacco but encouraged them to come back with another product to sell, O'Hara said. If they don't, O'Hara said, he's confident he can rent the spaces but that money isn't the point.
"You can't put a price on someone's health," he said.
One of the vendors is a couple, Vito and Sue Ostuni, of Springhill, Tenn., who relocated there from the Syracuse area in 1993. This would have been their 18th year at the fair. They'd heard about the change of rules but said they hadn't been officially notified.
Vito Ostuni said they had three sites at the fair and made a "minimal" profit. Sue Ostuni runs the stand and said she relies on the income to pay for her three-week trip back home each year. She declined to say how much money the business made.
She grew up in Solvay, loves the state fair and would like to find another product to sell there this year so she can make the trip north.
"It's my roots, it's a 12-day family reunion, it's a high school reunion, and I enjoy doing it, and I wanted to do it a couple of more years," she said.
O'Hara said the Ostunis paid $6,000 to operate their three sites at the fair. A man from Enfield, Conn., paid about $3,000 for another tobacco sales site.
He said the third tobacco vendor was part of The Wine Garden, operated by Bill Eberhardt, of Skaneateles, and the garden will be back this year, minus the tobacco. Eberhardt could not be reached for comment.
The change of direction was good news for anti-tobacco groups.
Elizabeth Toomey, of the Prevention Network, was thrilled to hear the news about tobacco sales and sponsorship. She is coordinator of Reality Check, a teen anti-smoking effort, which has worked for some time to get the state fair to end tobacco sponsorships.
"We think it's a fantastic idea," Toomey said.
The American Cancer Society thinks the same.
"Think of the message it will be sending to our children," said Amy Norpell, spokeswoman for the society's Central and Northern New York Region.
- April 5, 2007
Shielding kids from ‘Joe Camel’ and co. - Campaign aims to protect youths from smoking
Smoldering Brooklyn officials are hoping to extinguish tobacco advertising at convenience stores in a bid to turn their impact on teen smoking into ashes.
Borough President Marty Markowitz met with health advocates at John Dewey High School, 50 Avenue X, to launch a “Protect Our Kids from Tobacco Advertising Day,” aimed at alerting the public to the hazards of teen smoking.
The campaign will include public service announcements on Brooklyn television networks during primetime through April 6.
Joining the beep were Louise Vetter, chief executive officer of the American Lung Association of New York City; Joanne Koldare, director of the New York City Coalition for a Smoke Free City; and Rick Stoddard, tobacco control advocate, speaker and author of “The Burning Truth.”
“Eliminating advertising that targets children is a critical step in improving public health,” said Markowitz, adding it would “be a breath of fresh air” if the campaign were to stop young smokers before they took their first puff.
According to statistics released by Borough Hall, 7,500 Brooklyn youngsters, ages 13-17, smoke, and teens, who report seeing tobacco ads in bodegas and convenience stores are 38 percent more likely to experiment with cigarettes than those who are not exposed to such advertising.
Press - April 4, 2007
NY State Fair Halts Tobacco Sales
Patrons who puff at this year's New York State Fair won't be able to buy tobacco products on the grounds.
Besides outlawing the sale of tobacco products, the State Fair also will not accept sponsorship money from tobacco companies, Director Dan O'Hara said.
"This is an initiative of trying to continue to promote a healthy New York state," O'Hara said Wednesday. "The governor has set goals of making New York the healthiest state in the nation, and this is working toward that effort."
Only a handful of vendors will be affected, fair spokesman Joe LaGuardia said.
The new regulations do not restrict people from bringing their own products and smoking on the grounds in outdoor areas. Currently, smoking is not allowed in covered areas, but that policy could be extended to outdoor areas, LaGuardia said.
No final policy on the issue of making the entire fair smoke-free has been reached.
"Not at this point," O'Hara said.
Still, the ban on tobacco sales and sponsorship was welcome news to activists.
"The reason it's good is it's part of the broader process at work in society," said Russell Sciandra of the Albany-based Center for a Tobacco Free New York. "We are seeing the promotion and sale of tobacco sort of being denormalized. What the fair board is saying is, 'We're not going to be part of that anymore.'"
News 9 - April 5, 2007
No tobacco sales at NY State Fair
By Cait McVey
New Yorkers just got word that tobacco products will no longer be sold at the state fair. And, while they say it may not stop people from lighting up at the event, some people think it might lessen the secondhand smoke.
"I think if they can't buy, it's certainly going to cut down on it," Syracuse resident Lynette Paduano said.
"It's always good not to have it as accessible," Syracuse resident Gail Eberl said.
Fair Director Dan O'Hara said that's exactly the point. He said his administration wants to help out with a statewide goal.
"Obviously, it's an issue in the state. People are trying to encourage a more healthy New York," NYS Fair Director Dan O’Hara said.
So, how are vendors taking the news? O'Hara said for the most part, they've been pretty understanding.
"With exception of one of the four, which we have not heard back from, the others appear not to be overly upset. In fact, one of them said, ‘You know, we expected at some point this was going to happen,’" O’Hara said.
You won't be able to buy tobacco products at the fair, but you can still use them. As of right now, smoking is only banned from covered buildings, but that could also change, as officials look into the possibility of a smoke-free fair.
"At this point, we will evaluate that going forward to see what makes sense, and we'll see what develops in the next six to 12 months,” O’Hara said.
But, even those who are against smoking at the fair wonder if such a ban will ever take place.
"I'm just not a fan of smoking, but it's people's right. You know they have a choice," Paduano said.
I guess we'll just have to wait and see.
Press - April 3, 2007
Nassau County Wants $2-Per-Pack Cig Tax
By Frank Eltman
GARDEN CITY, N.Y. - The chairman of the state Senate's health committee on Tuesday said there are better ways to combat teenage smoking than raising the tax on cigarettes by $2 a pack.
"I am opposed to creating new taxes and to raising existing taxes," Sen. Kemp Hannon said in a statement after a press conference earlier in the day in which Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi and others called for the increase primarily as a way to discourage smoking.
Suozzi, who last year made an unsuccessful bid for the Democratic nomination for governor, said he wanted "to do everything I can to discourage people from making the choice to smoke and to quit smoking if they're already hooked."
The tax measure, which requires approval of the state Legislature, would allow the suburban counties around New York City -- Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester, Orange, Putnam, Rockland and Dutchess -- and upstate Rennselaer County to impose their own local taxes on the sale of cigarettes.
New York City charges a $1.50-per-pack tax and is looking to increase that by 50 cents, Suozzi said. If Nassau County imposed a $2-a-pack tax on cigarettes, which sell for about $5 per pack, it could bring between $26.1 million to $30.7 million in additional revenues, according to the county Office of Legislative Budget Review.
Judy Jacobs, the presiding officer of the county legislature, conceded that while a tax on cigarettes would help improve residents' health, it also would invigorate the county's bottom line.
"As legislators, we need to be creative in searching for new revenue streams that will help taxpayers, not hurt them," she said. "We have spent the past five years looking under every rock for savings, but it's time for instituting long-term changes into the future."
Representatives of the American Lung Association of New York State Inc. and the American Cancer Society also endorsed the higher tax proposal.
"The American Cancer Society enthusiastically supports any initiative that will discourage people, especially young people, from smoking or that encourages smokers to quit," said Dee McCabe, regional vice president of the American Cancer Society. "An increase in the price of cigarettes should accomplish that objective."
Hannon, a Long Island Republican who claimed he is "totally opposed to smoking," said there are better ways.
"Raise minimum age to 21 to purchase and possess cigarettes; target vendors who illegally sell to minors; limit placement of smoking scenes in movies, TV and music videos," he said in a statement.
Audrey Silk, who heads NYC Citizens Lobbying Against Smoker Harassment, also decried the proposal and suggested that people who are addicted to nicotine would continue smoking at virtually any price.
"This is contemptible governing," Silk said. "This is social engineering by economic force ... to impose their preferred behavior, which is the act of tyrants."
She suggested it was disingenuous of politicians to suggest they are trying to protect children from smoking.
"That's the red flag, that's the emotional shield," she said. "Adolescents who are smoking have the most disposable income of any age group. They have no problem plunking down $70 on sneakers, and you think you're going to stop them from buying an $8 pack of cigarettes?"
Newsday - April 3, 2007
Nassau looks at smoke-ban in parks
By Reid Epstein
Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi launched a new front in his war on smoking Tuesday, announcing that the county is considering a smoking ban in parks.
At a news conference to tout a proposed $2 per pack regional cigarette tax, Suozzi said the county's health department will investigate making the parks smoke-free.
"It's something we're thinking about," he said of the parks ban. "I'd like to do it."
The cigarette tax hike Suozzi is seeking, which needs state legislative approval, has support in the Assembly, but may stall in the Republican-controlled Senate. However, a smoke-free park initiative requires only local legislative approval and has already won support from Presiding Officer Judy Jacobs (D-Woodbury), who said banning smoking in the parks would be consistent with the county's other smoking cessation efforts.
"Parks are synonymous with nature and health, and certainly smoking doesn't fit under that at all," said Jacobs, whose husband, Sidney, was a smoker and died of lung cancer in 2004.
Several California cities, including San Francisco, have enacted smoking bans in public parks and on golf courses. Belmont, a San Jose suburb, may ban smoking citywide excluding only the interiors of single-family homes.
Mary Curtis, Suozzi's deputy county executive for health and human services, said banning smoking in parks is still an idea, not a formal proposal.
Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy has never considered banning smoking in parks, said Levy spokesman Ed Dumas, who said the issue hadn't come up. Suffolk Presiding Officer William Lindsay (D-Holbrook) would not support a parks smoking ban, spokeswoman Kara Hahn said.
Not surprisingly, making parks smoke-free elicited strong opinions from smokers and smoking-rights activists. Audrey Silk, a retired New York City police officer who founded Citizens Lobbying Against Smoker Harassment, said banning smoking outdoors has no discernable benefit.
"Show me a study about harm outdoors," she said. "It's social engineering, it's stigmatizing a group of people."
Ryan Schoenfeld, a 23-year-old SUNY-Old Westbury student from Uniondale, said the outdoors is the only place left to smoke.
"I think it's all right to be able to smoke outside," he said. "We're already not allowed to smoke inside."
With the park smoking ban still being researched, Nassau's odds of winning state approval for a $2 per pack cigarette tax appeared long Tuesday, as influential Republicans in the state Senate either backed away from the proposal or rejected it altogether. Also, county officials in Suffolk, Westchester and Rensselear Counties have expressed skepticism about enacting a cigarette tax.
Sen. Kemp Hannon (R-Garden City), the chairman of the Senate Health Committee, said he will not introduce the bill and is opposed to any new taxes. Spokesmen for Sen. Charles Fuschillo (R-Merrick) and Majority Leader Joe Bruno (R-Brunswick) said they have no plans to be part of a cigarette tax increase.
Sen. Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre), the deputy majority leader, could not be reached.
Hannon said Nassau can find ways to curtail smoking other than taxes. He said he'd raise the minimum smoking age to 21 and do a better job collecting taxes from cigarettes bought online or at Indian reservations.
"I'm not high on raising taxes at all," Hannon said.
New York's state legislators typically allow local governments to raise their own sales taxes, said Frank Mauro, the executive director of the Fiscal Policy Institute in Albany. But without a Nassau sponsor in the Senate, raising the cigarette tax will be a hard sell, he said.
"If the Long Island senators are opposing it and Nassau most wants it, you'd think it might not be done as simply as the local sales tax increases are," he said.
Jacobs said that she will look elsewhere for a Senate sponsor if the Nassau delegation declines to introduce the bill.
"It would be nice to have them, and we'd like them to show that they have an interest in Nassau County," she said.
Northender - April 3, 2007
Suozzi, Jacobs Join Call for Cigarette Tax
Various Long Island elected officials have joined in the call for counties in New York State to be allowed to impose taxes on cigarettes.
Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi announced his support for the measure at a gathering today, at which he was joined by the County’s Legislative Presiding Officer Judy Jacobs, State Assemblypeople Charles Lavine (D-Glen Cove) and Earlene Hooper (D-Hempstead), and various health advocates. Legislator Jacobs proposed the bill in the Nassau County Legislature while Assemblyperson Hooper sponsored it in the Assembly.
If the bill passes in the State Legislature, it will go into effect in 2008 and would add $2.00 to the price of each pack of cigarettes sold in the County. New York City currently has a tax of $1.50 per pack; and City officials are reportedly also lobbying to raise it to $2.00. The Nassau County Office of Legislative Budget Review estimates that the tax would bring an additional $26.1 million to $30.7 million in revenues to the County.
In addition to Nassau and Suffolk counties, Westchester, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Dutchess and Rennselaer counties would also receive authorization to impose the tax. Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy has not declared a position on the proposal.
“Because cigarette smoking and tobacco use are acquired behaviors, or something that people choose to do, smoking is the most preventable cause of early death,” Mr. Suozzi said. “I want to do everything I can to discourage people from making the choice to smoke, and to quit smoking if they’re already hooked.”
“As legislators, we need to be creative in searching for new revenue streams that will help taxpayers, not hurt them,” said Presiding Officer Jacobs. “We have spent the past five years looking under every rock for savings, but it’s time for instituting long-term changes into the future. This tax would have the added benefit of improving our residents’ health.”
Nassau County banned smoking in workplaces and restaurants in 2003. Last year, the county upped the legal age to buy tobacco products from 18 to 19, in a move intended to decrease high school students’ access to cigarettes.
Opponents of cigarettes taxes claim that they do nothing to decrease smoking and only push smokers to buy cigarettes illicitly via the internet or Native American reservations (cigarettes sold tax-free on reservations are intended for sale to reservation residents only).
A May 2003 article in the New York Post by libertarian economist Patrick Fleenor claims that cigarette taxes create potentially violent smuggling rings, increasing the chances of legitimate tobacco vendors and transporters to be robbed.
In recent months, Mr. Fleenor – in his capacity as an economist with the Washington tax policy think tank The Tax Foundation – has criticized federal and state cigarette taxes as being unfair to low-income nicotine addicts. Lower-income people are statistically more likely to be smokers than those in higher income brackets, he says, and will spend a greater portion of their incomes on cigarettes.
Mr. Fleenor also calls it a myth that smoking is responsible for a disproportionate amount of the money spent on healthcare. “Over their lifetimes, smokers cost taxpayers only trivially more than nonsmokers—about 32 cents a pack, according to most studies,” he said in an October 2006 Los Angeles Times article co-written with fellow Tax Foundation economist Andrew Chamberlain.
Government agencies, health advocates and public policy research institutes on both the left and the right disagree.
Orzechowski & Walker is a consulting firm whose report – “Tax Burden on Tobacco” – is widely quoted by cigarette tax supporters. The report offers data that says that the cigarette sales do decrease with tax increases, and that illegal cigarette purchases only account for a small percentage of overall purchases.
According to the Federation of Tax Administrators, New York State currently has the thirteenth highest cigarette tax rate in the nation, while New Jersey has the highest.
Newsday - April 3, 2007
Lawmakers mull $2 cigarette tax
By Reid J. Epstein
It may not be long before cigarettes are just as expensive on Long Island as they are in New York City.
The move to enact a $2 per pack cigarette tax in Nassau and Suffolk Counties is expected to gain momentum Tuesday when a host of officials gather in Mineola to call for Albany to authorize eight counties to implement their own cigarette tax.
The change would drive the price of many cigarettes to around $7 a pack.
"Anybody in elected office, the best legacy we can leave is to make it so prohibitive to smoke that in spite of themselves, people will live longer," said Judy Jacobs (D-Woodbury), the presiding officer of the Nassau Legislature.
Jacobs and Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi are pushing a State Assembly bill, sponsored by Earlene Hooper (D-Hempstead), that would authorize Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Dutchess and Rennselaer Counties to impose a cigarette tax. New York City, which introduced a $1.50 per pack tax in 2002, is seeking state approval to increase its tax to $2.
Health officials say an increased cigarette tax would lead to thousands of people quitting smoking, noting that smoking-related deaths and the number of women who smoke have both dropped in New York City since 2002.
"It's not just an incentive for adults, it's an incentive for teenagers to stop smoking or to never start," said Lisa Daglian, the spokeswoman for the American Cancer Society.
But Chris Seustel, an accountant who works in Melville and has been smoking a pack a day for a decade, says he couldn't get through the tax season without nicotine.
"That won't convince me to stop smoking," Seustel said of the tax. "I'm planning to quit, but right now I'm in the middle of my stressful season."
Officials also said leveling the cigarette taxes in New York City and the suburban counties would stop the flow of people who cross the Queens border to buy smokes.
New York City raised $123 million from cigarette taxes in fiscal year 2006, according to the city comptroller's office. The Nassau County Office of Legislative Budget Review estimated the tax would add between $26 million and $30 million to the county's coffers.
Jacobs and Suozzi said the tax would help the county offset rising costs.
"If we got the cigarette tax, it would be go along way toward avoiding a property tax increase in Nassau County," Suozzi said.
Mark Smith, a spokesman for Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy, said Levy does not have a position on a county cigarette tax. William Lindsay (D-Holbrook), the Suffolk Legislature's presiding officer, said he supports a cigarette tax to help fund the county's schools.
"The government makes more money off cigarettes than the cigarette companies do," said Damin Toell, 29, an attorney from Hicksville who says an increased tax would not change his half-pack per day habit.
Jacobs said Nassau has a better chance of gaining state approval for the cigarette tax with seven other counties included in the proposal than it would by itself.
"It'll never work with just one," she said.
& Chronicle - April 3, 2007
Proposed bill takes on cigarette 'buttleggers'
By Dan Wiessnet
ALBANY — Legislators have announced a drive to stop the illegal sale of untaxed cigarettes, a practice they say costs the state hundreds of millions of dollars annually.
One proposal would require the use of high-tech tax stamps that can be read like bar codes and another would compel Native-American tribes to share revenue with the state. The sale of untaxed cigarettes could be costing the state more than $700 million a year, and it allows minors to smoke and often funds organized crime, the sponsors claimed.
"The health and safety of New York's families are threatened by ruthless cigarette smugglers," said Sen. Dale Volker, R-Depew, Erie County, sponsor of the tax-stamp bill. "From dangerous cigarettes illegally imported from China to international terrorists profiting from illegal cigarette smuggling rings, our homes and families are threatened by this black-market trade."
According to a memo accompanying the bill, which is sponsored in the Assembly by Dennis Gabryszak, D-Cheektowaga, Erie County, sources of unstamped cigarettes could include "crime organizations, terrorist groups, North Korea, China and Vietnam."
The measure comes three weeks after Sen. Jeff Klein, D-Bronx, released a report claiming so-called "buttleggers" take $460 million a year from the state. Legislation he proposed would compel Indian tribes to share tax revenue.
The state's current tax on cigarettes outside of New York City is $1.50 per pack, the 13th highest in the country. New Jersey charges the most at $2.57 while South Carolina charges seven cents.
California started using the stamps in 2004 and saw a $120 million increase in tax revenue in the first 20 months of the program, according to the Los Angeles Times. Now New York may become the second state to use them.
Cigarette manufacturers would have to pay a licensing fee of one cent per pack sold. Volker spokeswoman Kathie Sorel said this would cover "a good portion" of the program's cost while bringing in millions of dollars to the state. Advocates also say the stamps can help cut down on smoking.
"Tax evasion and bootlegging cut the cost of cigarettes and encourage people to smoke," said Peter Slocum of the American Cancer Society. "The high-tech tax stamp can be an important tool in stopping contraband trafficking of cigarettes and, not incidentally, will help reduce the prevalence of cigarette use and the diseases cigarettes cause."
Klein said the measure would help curb stamp counterfeiting and the recurrence of organized crime syndicates banking off untaxed cigarettes, but that it does nothing to stop untaxed sales on Indian reservations that cost the state $270 million a year.
He said he would introduce legislation to compel Indian tribes to collect taxes on all sales and split revenues with the state. Most of the missing $270 million is earmarked for a fund set up in 2000 that grants health insurance to more than 1.3 million people.
Union - April 1, 2007
A cloud still hangs over smoking ban
Four years after New York barred smoking from bars, some businesses flout the law
By Danielle Furfaro
Correction: Earlier versions of this story incorrectly characterized Albany County's policy on granting waivers. A spokeswoman said the county has not received any completed applications for waivers since the law was passed on July 24, 2003.
One recent Friday night in Rensselaer three people sat in Den-Den's bar, listening silently to classic country tunes on the jukebox.
A few weeks earlier, owner Dennis Williams had been cited by the Rensselaer County Health Department for allowing customers to smoke. So he once again banned smoking from the bar -- as he did right after the state law passed on July 24, 2003. All of his business suddenly vanished -- like a puff of smoke.
"When the law first came into effect, I told people they couldn't smoke and I had no business," Williams said. "I had to let them smoke or close up."
Coming up on four years since the state's Clean Indoor Air Act became law, about 60 violations have been issued in the Capital Region's four main counties, mostly to operators of neighborhood, blue-collar bars, a Union survey shows.
Research also shows that enforcement is sporadic -- places in Albany and Saratoga counties were cited more than 20 times each; Schenectady's number was fewer, and Rensselaer County's three fines were all just within the last three months. And compliance is still a lingering issue: Of seven bars visited in Albany, Rensselaer and Schenectady counties on a Friday night late last month, four had customers smoking indoors.
Rensselaer County fined bar owner Williams $250. While that is a small amount compared with a weekend's profits, Williams said he fears the fines will get bigger if he gets caught again.
"They are going to shut me down one way or another," said Williams. "There is not much I can do." Especially when the competition allows smoking, he said.
"There are a lot of bars in Rensselaer where there is smoking," he said. "They are making money and I'm not."
In some taverns, patrons smoke all the time. In others, bartenders break out the ashtrays only after a certain hour. Some keep their doors locked and allow in only customers they deem sympathetic.
Walk into the music club Positively Fourth Street in Troy on some nights and you'll find several people smoking. Owner and musician Artie Fredette will not admit to allowing smoking, but he will loudly express his disdain for the law. A few years ago, his band, the Lawn Sausages, released a single called "Smoke This, Joe Bruno," in reference to the Senate majority leader.
"We are losing so many rights every day," said Fredette, who has owned a number of bars in Troy over the years. "Now you can't use trans fats in New York City and they are talking about making kids wear helmets while sledding. I'm not selling holy water here."
Fredette believes bar owners who want to allow smoking in their establishments should be able to pay for an additional license.
"That way, the state will make all the money they need to make," he said. "And when you hire someone, you should have them sign a waiver to say they know they are working in a smoking environment."
Rensselaer County inspections for smoking violations have been done only on a complaint basis, said Roy Champagne, the county's director of environmental health.
Previously, the county Health Department sent out three warning letters before actually sending an inspector to the establishment, and investigated only during the daytime on weekdays. Now, the county plans to step up enforcement, sending out fewer warnings and conducting inspections after 5 p.m.
"They have gotten used to us doing the inspections during the week. Now we are going to do them after hours and catch them off guard," Champagne said.
Peterson's Place on Broadway in Rensselaer was packed one Friday night. As a performer at one end of the room strummed a guitar and belted out Crosby Stills and Nash covers, people from the neighborhood chatted about the latest gossip, sipped drinks -- and smoked cigarettes.
Peterson's owner Patricia Peterson declined to comment.
George Rourke is a regular. He said the law restricting him from smoking inside infringes on his rights.
"When a guy gets out of work at night, he likes to come into the bars and have a beer. And drinking and smoking go hand in hand," said Rourke, 58, as he lined up beer can tabs on the bar in front of him.
Before he was cited by the county and still allowed smoking at Den-Den's, Williams said it was rare for any of his customers to complain about cigarettes.
"I tell them 'What do you want me to do? It's not what 90 percent of my customers want,' " he said.
The state workplace smoking ban went into effect in the summer of 2003 after a lengthy battle between lawmakers and restaurant and tavern owners who worried their businesses would be ruined if customers couldn't smoke.
The law made room for county health departments, which enforce the law, to grant waivers to business owners who can prove their bottom lines are significantly affected. A spokeswoman for Albany County said the county has not received any completed applications for waivers since the law was passed on July 24, 2003. In Saratoga County, only two taverns have waivers. In Schenectady County, only businesses operating out of the Schenectady Bingo Palace have been granted waivers.
"It would be a bad decision," said Champagne, on why Rensselaer County has not given out any waivers. "And I don't know what we would base renewing the waivers on."
County health departments have discretion over how to enforce the law. Schenectady County launches an investigation when it receives a complaint and offers business owners a chance for a hearing. Fines in that county range from $300 to $1,000. The county has given some warnings before, but Environmental Health Director Andrew Suflita said the law has been around long enough and he will no longer give warnings.
"By and large, most facilities are complying with the law," Suflita said.
The three bars Rensselaer County cited each paid fines of $250 after receiving three warnings. In Albany County, fines range from $250 for a first violation to $1,000 for a fourth. In Saratoga, where there is no county health department, enforcement is handled by the state. There, fines range from $100 to $1,000.
Besides levying their own penalties, counties can also alert the state Liquor Authority, which can then impose its own fine, sometimes significantly higher. Technically, the Liquor Authority could impose up to a $10,000 fine and revocation of the liquor license for a variety of infractions, including smoking. But that rarely, if ever, happens, authority spokesman Bill Crowley said.
"Anyone who gets a liquor license has to comply with all other laws, both local and state," Crowley said. "We expect our licensees to run their establishments responsibly."
Champagne, the Rensselaer environmental health director, said it is often frustrating to investigate neighborhood bars, because employees and clientele are often hostile when it's suggested they put down their smokes. He said one of his inspectors was threatened at a bar this winter and had to call police.
"All the people in there smoke," said Champagne. "At that point, who are we protecting in terms of public health?"
The ban has had a positive effect on the lives of thousands of restaurant and bar workers, said Peter Iwanowicz, spokesman for the American Lung Association of New York State.
"It has a tremendous health impact when people, during the workday, are not being exposed to second-hand smoke," he said. "It's disappointing that there are workplaces and employers that are not upholding the law and protecting their workers."
On at least four occasions in the past year, Latham resident Michele Roemer has found herself having to walk out of taverns in Troy because they were smoke-filled.
"We should be able to go into a bar and have something to eat without being bothered by other people's smoke," said Roemer, 47. "Especially when it's against the law."
Not all bar owners are opposed to the smoking ban or say it has hurt their business. When Jerry Aumand first opened the Lionheart Pub on Albany's Lark Street in 1992, he implemented his own nonsmoking policy, in part because the space was too small to keep smoke out of the dining area.
"We wanted to try something we thought was a sign of the coming times," he said.
The bar was successful, although Aumand is sure the policy kept some customers away.
"We had several smokers who would just step outside," he said. "But it did alienate part of the population who weren't used to stepping outside."
When the bar eliminated its kitchen in 1999, Aumand also eliminated the nonsmoking policy. But when the pub moved a few blocks away to Madison Avenue a few months before the ban went into effect, Aumand was jubilant.
"It's much more enjoyable to work around a bar when you are a nonsmoker," said Aumand, 49. "It's very difficult, in a bar atmosphere, to draw out all the smoke to make it a tolerable environment for people who don't want to be around it."
Not allowing smoking also makes the bar easier to run in other ways.
"The walls don't turn brown and the place doesn't reek of stale smoke," Aumand said. "And there are a lot of things you can put in now that you couldn't before, like draperies."
But not all bars have had the Lionheart's level of success. Since the smoking ban went into effect in 2003, "20 percent of our members went out of business," said Scott Wexler, executive director of the Empire State Restaurant and Tavern Association.
"There is no question that it had a short-term severe economic impact on the industry," he said. "The independent operators will adjust, but there are victims of this. Not only the owners, but the employees that lost their jobs."
Press - April 1, 2007
NJ casinos brace for mid-April smoking ban
By Wayne Parry
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. - The days of casino patrons puffing on a cigarette while pushing buttons on a slot machine or shuffling stacks of chips may be ending in nearly half of this resort's gambling halls.
In two weeks, the city's 11 casinos must comply with a law restricting smoking to no more than 25 percent of the gambling floor.
At least five of them plan to comply with the ban by creating non-gambling smoking lounges, where patrons can have a smoke, then return to the tables or slots.
Other casinos have decided to wall off sections where patrons will be able to smoke while gambling, but the lounges are seen as a cheaper, easier way to satisfy both the law and casino employees, many of whom have complained about having to work around smokers.
"You get problems with your sinuses, problems with your lungs," said Nate Chait, a veteran Atlantic City table games supervisor, who claims he and many co-workers have been sickened by second-hand smoke. "You get sore throats. You get more colds."
The smoking lounges have also won praise from anti-smoking groups, who see them as momentum toward a total ban in casinos.
"We think this smoking lounge idea makes good sense," said Peter Slocum, a vice president of the American Cancer Society. "It is not perfect, and some people are still going to be exposed to toxic smoke. But not nearly so much as they are now, and will be in other casinos which go with the fig leaf of a 75-25 split on the gaming floor."
But some smokers dread the coming changes.
"I think I have the same rights as non-smokers," Suetta Kyer of Mullens, W.Va., said as she played the slots last week while puffing on a cigarette in a long-handled holder. "Why should I have to leave?"
She said she would smoke in a lounge if there were no other option, but would prefer to patronize a casino that allowed smoking while gambling.
Harrah's Entertainment Inc. owns four casinos here - Harrah's Atlantic City; Bally's Atlantic City; Caesars Atlantic City and the Showboat Casino-Hotel. All plan to establish smoking lounges to comply with the law within a few months.
"It is an alternative that is appealing to us because it would take the employees out of the smoking situation," said Juan Carlos Tolosa, the company's eastern division president. "We would make a nice, comfortable lounge so patrons can go in, smoke and then come out. The only time employees would have to go in there was when it was shut down for cleaning."
As construction will take time, casinos going with the smoking lounge won't have them operating immediately on April 15. In the meantime those casinos say they will designate 25 percent of their gambling halls as smoking areas.
Fred Buro, president and chief operating officer of Tropicana Casino and Resort, said his casino plans to be the first in Atlantic City to have smoking lounges, though he could not say when that might be.
Other gambling facilities are still figuring out how they'll comply. The Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa says lounges are one option it is considering. But as of April 15, it plans simply to increase the non-smoking areas it now has.
"Today we have non-smoking and smoking areas spread out throughout the casino floor," spokesman Michael Facenda said. "All we're doing is reversing the process. On April 15 and thereafter, you'll still be able to find a smoking table and smoking section of slots."
The call for a casino smoking ban started last April. The state had enacted one of the strictest laws in the nation banning smoking in public places, but it exempted casinos, fearing an impact on tourism.
The Atlantic City Council was poised late last year to enact a total smoking ban in the casinos. But it backed down under pressure from the casino industry, which feared the loss of 20 percent of its revenue and 3,400 jobs.
It then adopted a compromise ordinance in February requiring at least 75 percent of the casino floor to be non-smoking.
Press - March 21, 2007
Gov. Spitzer urged to collect cigarette tax
BUFFALO — Dr. Michael Cummings wouldn’t mind seeing a $10-per-pack tax on cigarettes — enough, he says, to defray the medical costs of the damage they cause.
That wouldn’t be great for business at the convenience stores Jim Calvin represents.
But when the two stood side by side Wednesday, it was on common ground. Both urged Gov. Eliot Spitzer to stick to his plans to collect sales tax on cigarettes sold by Indian businesses in New York to non-Indian customers.
The unlikely alliance was the latest public airing in the crescendoing debate over tax collection that Spitzer, who took office in January, has vowed to settle.
Although his administration has yet to decide on a tax-collection plan, a spokeswoman indicated this week that the state was open to a proposal that would provide for collection of the tax while sharing the revenue with tribes. The measure would end tribes’ price advantage over non-Indian retailers obligated to collect the state’s $1.50 per pack tax.
The New York Association of Convenience Stores, led by Calvin, has long complained that the group’s 7,000 stores are unable to compete with tribal competitors’ reduced-price cigarettes and that state and local governments have lost hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue.
Cummings said the losses from a public health perspective may be even greater. The availability of reduced-price cigarettes encourages smoking, he said, raising the incidence of cancer and heart disease. The public cost of treating smoking-related illnesses amounts to $1,000 per year for every household in the state, he said.
‘‘We’ve created a situation where we’re making smoking more affordable than it should be,’’ said Cummings, who spoke with Calvin at the office of Erie County Executive Joel Giambra, a former smoker who survived throat cancer.
Last week, members of the Seneca Indian Nation — the leaders of reservation cigarette sales — gathered in much larger numbers to try to sway Spitzer in the other direction. About 500 members traveled from their Allegany and Cattaraugus reservations in western New York for a show of force outside Buffalo City Hall.
‘‘We would like to make a statement to the newly elected governor of New York State, Eliot Spitzer,’’ Seneca President Maurice John announced. ‘‘We will not become tax collectors for New York state.’’
"New York has added multiple and high taxes to a pack of cigarettes," John said on Wednesday. "The Seneca Nation has chosen not to add to the price of cigarettes to those smokers who want them. New Yorks so-called sin tax has nothing to do with the sovereign Seneca Nation."
The Senecas contend federal treaties dating to the 1700s shield the nation from state taxation. The state’s attempts to collect tax a decade ago resulted in violent clashes between Senecas and state police.
Tribal leaders said their smoke shops and gas stations support hundreds of jobs held by Senecas and non-Senecas.
Calvin said the contribution is appreciated, ‘‘but being an economic force does not excuse any entity from abiding by duly enacted standards for conducting commerce with New Yorkers, and that includes taxation.’’
Press - March 20, 2007
Light cigarettes targetted in state Health Department campaign
BINGHAMTON, N.Y. State health officials are working to alert New Yorkers to what they call the "hidden dangers" of so-called light cigarettes.
The Department of Health has launched a six-week campaign to educate smokers about the health risks posed by cigarettes that are billed as "low tar." Health experts say light cigarettes are not safer than regular smokes.
Russell Sciandra (SHON'-druh) -- director of the Center for a Tobacco Free New York -- says the state's new effort is a good "beginning" but it's not enough.
Sciandra told a Binghamton radio station (W-N-B-F) that people need to hear the message "over and over again" for it to be effective.
Sciandra said while the state has allocated about three (m) million dollars on the light cigarette campaign, the tobacco industry will be spending "many multiples of that" promoting the same cigarettes in New York.
Buffalo News - March 18, 2007
FOCUS: Taxing cigarette sales
The state and the Senecas: Who will blink first?
With tough new leaders on both sides and old problems festering, a State-Seneca confrontation is brewing
By Lou Michel and Tom Precious
Retired State Police Capt. David O’Connor remembers when tire burnings and clashes on the Thruway a decade ago disrupted traffic as Senecas went up against state police over the Native American taxation issue.
“It was the worst situation I was ever in,” said O’Connor, who suffered a knee injury in physical confrontations with Seneca protesters when the state last tried, in 1997, to collect tobacco taxes from reservation businesses.
Given the current climate, there’s concern that history will repeat itself.
The looming confrontation between the state and the Seneca Nation over cigarette tax collections comes at a time when the two governments have been taken over by tough, new leaders intent on protecting very different interests.
As far apart as they are on the tax stalemate, Gov. Eliot L. Spitzer and Seneca President Maurice A. John have similarities that could shape the situation’s outcome — for better, or, some fear, for worse. Both men can be stubborn.
Both are under pressure to hold fast to their positions.
And both have proven they can deliver on promises.
“There’s got to be some give and take on both sides. I’d just say be careful and keep everyone’s tempers under control,” O’Connor said, adding that the time for the state to have acted on ending tax-free sales by Indian tribes has long since passed.
“Possibly if [the state] had done something early, but it’s grown so big and there’s a lot of money involved,” he said.
During the campaign last year and since he became governor Jan. 1, Spitzer has vowed the state will resolve the long-standing tax dispute under his watch and end what he says are the “not legal or appropriate” tax-free cigarette sales by Indian retailers.
John, citing Seneca sovereignty and centuries-old treaties, insists the Senecas will never be party to a deal seeing Indian retailers serving as tax collectors for another government.
“I don’t think he is going to back down at all. He’s the kind of guy that is going to stand up and fight and not back down,” said Sally Snow, who co-chairs the Seneca Nation’s Free Trade Association.
At last week’s Niagara Square rally, John insisted he does not want to see violence.
“Our people feel very strongly about this issue [but] we do not want violence. Violence is what we are trying to avoid, but I can’t even get the governor to meet with me,” he said.
Spitzer has made it clear violence from the Senecas will not resolve the dispute.
“It’s counter-productive even to foment the discussion about it on their part, so I certainly hope that is not what folks are doing because it’s not the best way to get a resolution here certainly,” he said.
A tougher governor?
But following a boisterous Seneca rally last week in Buffalo, in which protesters held signs comparing the Jewish governor to Adolf Hitler, tensions have begun to rise.
Spitzer isn’t the first governor to try to collect taxes from the Senecas. Mario Cuomo tried in 1992. George E. Pataki tried in 1997.
Both attempts ended in violence. Both governors backed down.
In Spitzer, the Senecas are dealing with a governor who, unlike Cuomo or Pataki, has a long track record of trying to end the tax-free sales before he even became governor.
As state attorney general for the past eight years, Spitzer took a series of steps that, while not ending the tax-free sales, made them harder.
He convinced carriers such as Federal Express to stop shipping Seneca Internet sales of cigarettes, pushed credit card companies to stop processing the sales and brought pressure upon wholesalers who supply the Senecas with cigarettes.
In his first three months in office Spitzer has shown himself to be a man who not only refuses to shy away from confrontations but relishes them. He has battled some of Albany’s most potent special interests and personally has taken on legislative leaders to make his points.
“It’s clear from the first almost 90 days of his administration that Spitzer is focused, that Spitzer is principled and that Spitzer is tenacious and does not back down,” said James Calvin, executive director of the New York Association of Convenience Stores, the most vocal lobbying group in Albany over the years pressing for an end to the tax-free sales.
Health groups pushing Spitzer, who has made reducing tobacco use among his public health priorities, say the governor’s motivation is more than just money and leveling the playing field between Indian and non-Indian retailers.
“He wants the state to get the money, but I do think there is also some appreciation of the public health benefits in doing this, and some recognition that reducing smoking rates ties into his other major effort, which is reducing health care costs,” said Russell Sciandra, director of the Center for a Tobacco Free New York.
Indeed, Spitzer’s 2007 budget plan counts on collecting nearly $124 million in taxes from Indian cigarette sales. The State Senate has issued an even more optimistic revenue outlook, figuring the state could count on getting an additional $160 million.
Three hundred miles away from the Capitol, “Moe” John is viewed by his fellow Senecas as a traditionalist, admired for standing up for the nation’s sovereignty.
John was arrested in the late 1980s for ripping up surveyor stakes when the Southern Tier Expressway went through the Allegany Reservation. He then filed a federal suit, saying the City of Salamanca had no right to require permits because his business was on Seneca territory, and thus not subject to the city’s rules. A judge disagreed.
One of the first Senecas to sell tax-free gasoline and cigarettes on the Allegany Reservation, John was jailed for contempt of court in 1990 for refusing to tell a federal judge how much gas he sold. When eventually released, he described himself as a prisoner of war.
“And as such,” he said, “I gave my name, Ha Nang Gan Go, and that I am an Indian, and I always will be an Indian.”
John also has refused to pay taxes on the millions of dollars he made selling tax-free gasoline, and he and his wife owe the Internal Revenue Service a combined $9.1 million, plus interest, that they have refused to pay, according to publicly filed judgments.
He wears his federal tax lien like a badge of honor — which is how many other Senecas also view it.
“We’re pretty strong on our treaties and we feel we have the right to sell tax free,” said Snow, operator of one of the biggest Seneca gasoline and tobacco retail outlets.
Whether a middle ground can be found has yet to be seen.
“We’ll talk to them,” Spitzer said. “We always welcome conversations. If they’re open to a meaningful compromise, that would be great, but we’ve got to move forward.”
Asked to elaborate, he talked of “many creative ideas that could be out there,” but he offered no specifics.
But there’s no question the governor remains convinced the state has the legal right to collect taxes from Indian retailers.
“I know that there is some upset on the part of the [Seneca] Nation. But, having said that, I keep coming back to this point that we are anomalous not because we are seeking to collect the taxes but because we don’t,” Spitzer said of other states, including Washington, that have resolved the Indian tax issue.
“There is a factual and legal reality that we have the right to collect them. Everybody else does. So, I’m not terribly sympathetic to the notion that they should get an advantage that nobody else has,” Spitzer said in an interview last week with The Buffalo News.
John declined to be interviewed for this report, but addressed the issue at last week’s rally.
“We are a sovereign nation,” he said. “Taxing us would be like taxing Canada. The Seneca people feel very strongly about this issue.”
Life - March 14, 2007
Smoking Ban Debate Continues
By George Wallace
A public hearing on a local law that would prohibit smoking in passenger vehicles with children in the car was recessed by its sponsor, Legislator Vivian Viloria-Fisher (D-Port Jefferson), after other legislative business consumed so much of the Legislature's day that she felt supporters of her bill would not have a chance to state their case.
"We very much appreciate the concern for the health and well-being of our youngest and most vulnerable citizens, our children," noted Frank Dowling, MD, president of the Suffolk County Medical Society. "This timely and significant legislation does not prevent a smoker from choosing to smoke in a vehicle ... [it] intends to prevent smoking if children are also in the vehicle. Children should not be exposed to the significant health risks of another person's decision to smoke."
One person who has expressed reservations about Viloria-Fisher's proposal is Schneiderman. "I'm not sure how I feel about this," he said. "How do you stop a parent from smoking in the house?"
As for Viloria-Fisher, she noted, "Sometimes people don't pay attention to educational initiatives unless there are penalties attached to it ... Until we had seatbelt laws ... people weren't compelled to ... [buckle up]. I know that legislation is the best way to handle this."
As for the critics who claim, like the cell phone law, that police won't be able to enforce a smoking ban, she responded, "That's no excuse. The police should enforce the law," she said. "I wouldn't expect them to actively go out and look for people smoking in cars, but if they do see them, it's enforceable."
The proposal will be reopened for public comment at the next session of the Legislature on March 20.
Patriot News - March 13, 2007
Labor ruling smothers smoking ban
By John Luciew
(PA) It's back to the drawing board for Harrisburg's smoking ban.
The ban, which City Council passed last spring but which never took effect, has been dealt a major setback by the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board.
Responding to a grievance filed by the city police union, labor board hearing examiner Donald A. Wallace ruled last week that the city "shall cease and desist" from enforcing the ban and ordered that the ordinance be rescinded as it applies to the police.
Wallace wrote that enforcement of the ban, which covered smoking in city-owned buildings, vehicles and work spaces, amounted to a unilateral change in working conditions for Harrisburg's unionized police officers.
The ruling upholds an unfair labor practice challenge by Harrisburg's Fraternal Order of Police filed in September, the date the ordinance was to take effect.
The no-puffing policy has been on hold since then.
It means Mayor Stephen R. Reed can continue his practice of smoking at his desk and in his city-furnished car.
The privilege is enjoyed by many members of Reed's staff, as well as by other city employees, including police officers, whose work space is separate from public areas.
Councilwoman Gloria Martin Roberts, who proposed the ban, said she would consult with city attorneys about appealing the labor board's order, or redrafting or selectively enforcing the existing ban.
"I think what we need to do is make sure the policy applies to any employee not covered by the order," she said. "I'm also encouraging everyone to write the governor and urge him to pass a statewide ban. That would make the whole issue moot."
Sean Welby, a lawyer for the police union, has indicated the union is "willing to sit down and negotiate this." But the city recently reached a multi-year agreement with the union that runs through 2010. The pact included no changes to the smoking policy that applies to officers.
Martin-Roberts expressed disappointment with the police union, saying the organization wasn't doing enough to represent officers who don't smoke and ensure city cops remain healthy enough to chase criminals.
The smoking ban was the subject of a series of City Council meetings and public hearings dating to last March. It was passed May 9, only to be vetoed by Reed 10 days later.
Council eventually overrode Reed's veto, but just as the ban was poised to take effect after a 90-day phase in period, the police union filed its grievance and the city placed the ban on indefinite hold.
Star Ledger - March 12, 2007
Chatham smoking ban gets a second wind
(NJ) Chatham Borough Councilman Neal Collins tonight plans to renew his efforts aimed at getting the panel to ban smoking in cars carrying children.
The medical doctor and political rookie -- one of two new Democrats on the formerly all-Republican council -- also has proposed banning trans fats in the Morris County borough's approximately 10 restaurants.
The laws would follow New York City, which enacted a trans fat ban in December, and Bangor, Maine, which approved a smoking- in-car ban in January.
Members of New Jersey Group Against Smoking Pollution will speak at the council meeting, which begins at 8 p.m. at borough hall.
"In the interest of public health and safety, the smoking adult's privacy needs to take the back seat to the child and adult nonsmoker's right to breath healthful air in private cars," GASP said in a statement.
Louisiana, Arkansas and Puerto Rico have passed laws banning smoking in cars where children are present.
State Sen. Ray Lesniak (D- Union) proposed a bill in January to prescribe criminal penalties for smoking in a motor vehicle carrying anyone under the age of 16.
At the Feb. 26 meeting, council members referenced the bill, now in committee, and debated the borough's responsibility for its residents and their personal rights.
News - March 5, 2007
Plan allows Indian Tribes to keep half of any cigarette tax revenues
By Tom Precious
ALBANY — New York’s Indian tribes would impose state taxes on cigarette sales but be able to keep half the revenues under legislation being introduced by a state senator who for years has been pushing for an end to the tax-free tobacco sales.
Sen. Jeff Klein, a Bronx Democrat, said direct negotiations by the Spitzer administration is likely the best way to end years of dispute between Indian tribes and Albany over the taxfree sales.
Klein on Sunday released a report that shows Seneca retailers have maintained their position as the leaders among Indian tribes nationally in marketing tax-free cigarettes to smokers across the country.
In the new report, Klein — who authored a 2000 law that for a period put some restrictions on Internet sales of tobacco — estimated the state is losing $270 million a year on tax-free sales by Native American retailers.
That number is conservative, Klein acknowledged, and reflects only Internet sales by Indian retailers. It does not include a host of other ways smokers are finding tax-free cigarettes to avoid the state’s $1.50 per pack excise tax, sales taxes, and another $1.50 per pack local tax on smokers in New York City.
“It’s killing our tax base,” Klein said of the lost sales. He noted the money Albany does not collect in cigarette taxes from Indian sales about equals the more than $200 million Gov. Eliot L. Spitzer wants to cut from a major health care program that provides a range of services across the state.
“I’m calling on the governor to put together an agreement,” he said.
The state already has a law mandating the collection of the taxes at the wholesale level before the tobacco products re ach the Native American retailers. But former Gov. George E. Pataki, backing down after violence erupted in 1997 when he tried to collect the taxes, refused to enforce the law. Spitzer, in his campaign last year, vowed to collect the lost taxes, and his administration is still grappling with ways to do it.
“I’d love to see that happen,” Klein said of a policy in which the law is enforced. “But it hasn’t worked. Now, an agreement has to happen that is somewhat beneficial to both sides.”
Seneca leaders have maintained there is nothing to negotiate because their tax-free sales are protected by treaties dating back to the 1700s.
When he was attorney general, Spitzer got credit card companies and private shipping carriers, such as Federal Express, to halt doing business with Native American retailers in the tax-free tobacco trade. But the merchants have found other methods — such as the U.S. Postal Service, over which the state has no jurisdiction — to continue the tax-free flow.
Klein pointed to a number of other states that have worked out agreements with Indian tribes that, in some cases, include imposition of state taxes in return for revenue sharing agreements. He noted the Senecas already, for instance, share 25 percent of slot machine revenues with the state from the tribe’s two casinos.
“We need to work out an agreement once and for all with the Indian tribes,” Klein said.
Klein’s call for a revenue sharing deal comes as the Seneca Nation recently began charging its own tariff — albeit a modest one at 75 cents a carton — on cigarette sales. The tribe will keep the revenues, which will run at least $20 million a year. It is also exploring setting minimum price levels for reservation cigarette sales that would boost prices, though still leave them considerably below levels charged by non-Indian retailers.
Klein proposed either a 50-50 split from tax collections with the Indian tribal governments, or the state would collect it all and then set aside half for health, education and other programs devoted exclusively to Native Americans in the state.
Besides the lost tax revenues, Klein said the tax-free sales are not helping the state’s efforts to reduce the rate of smoking; higher prices have been shown to correlate with declines in smoking rates. The state Health Department has estimated there would be as many as 75,000 fewer smokers if the taxes were collected. Moreover, he said the report found it remains easy for underage smokers to use the Native American Web sites to get cigarettes.
Other state estimates have found Albany is losing upwards of $575 million a year through the tax-free sales.
“Governor Spitzer inherited a dysfunctional system of cigarette excise taxation whose provisions are still entirely unenforced on tribal sellers despite a 12-year-old Supreme Court decision upholding that enforcement,” the report said.
“I’m just hopeful my report will jump-start this process again because the Pataki administration just did not take this issue seriously,” Klein said.
Times - March 5, 2007
Vet posts battle smoking ban
By Trish G. Graber
TRENTON (NJ) The Williamstown Veterans of Foreign Wars Post won't contribute $90,000 to charities this year as it has in the past.
That's because, according to Army veteran Joe Reed, business has slumped since the smoking ban was passed in 2005, and money for causes such as Hurricane Katrina, to which the post contributed $15,000, won't be available this year.
"This year, if we do half we'll be lucky," he said.
Reed began a writing campaign last year to get support for an amendment to the Smoke-Free Air Act that would allow veteran establishments to decide whether they want to allow smoking on their own turf.
Veterans in North Jersey also joined the cause.
Now, one legislator is fighting to lift the smoking ban inside local VFW posts or American Legion Posts, saying that veterans fought for freedom and should not be held under a smoking ban that limits their rights.
"These are people that fought for civil liberties," said Assemblyman Michael Doherty, R-Warren/Hunterdon. "Many of them have been in active combat."
Doherty introduced legislation to lift the smoking ban for veteran establishments, after the Belvidere VFW post took issue with the Smoke-Free Air Act, saying it "makes the assumption that we ... are incapable of deciding for ourselves" whether or not to smoke.
"We have fought, shed our blood and watched our friends die," the post commander wrote in a letter to Doherty, opposing the restrictions for veterans' institutions.
The assemblyman recently began seeking additional support for the bill.
But, the legislation comes at the same time Senate Democrats are pushing another measure to include casinos in the smoking ban.
The New Jersey Restaurant Association has opposed the exemption for casinos, saying it creates an unfair business climate.
While stressing her respect for veterans, restaurant association President Deborah Dowdell said an exemption for VFW posts would produce the same situation but on a broader scale.
Atlantic City casinos, she said, may impact South Jersey establishments greater because of their location, but an exemption for VFWs, which are located across the state, would impact a larger number of bars and restaurants.
"Who can speak against a benefit for veterans?" she said. "But by the same token, the freedoms that we're trying to preserve as well are the freedoms they fought for," she said. "An exemption for VFWs is further creating an unlevel playing field."
U.S. Navy Veteran Charles Liegel Sr., mayor of Belvidere, Warren County, from which the legislation was born, said he did not consider VFWs to be in the same realm as a public establishment.
"All we're asking for is, give us our right in our house to govern ourselves," he said.
The measure (A-3981) would allow association members to decide whether smoking would be permitted within their building.
- February 27, 2007
By Julie Browers
Of the three hundred and sixty bars and restaurants in Chemung County only fifteen allow smoking. But things will be different come the end of the year. When the clean indoor air act went into effect in 2003 some bars found a way to keep some of their smoking customers happy. Owners applied for and received waivers that would allow smoking under certain conditions like separate rooms with proper ventilation. Until now these waivers could be renewed every two years. Tonight, the Chemung County board of health decided (sic)
County Executive Thomas Santulli says the board of health who controls the issuance of smoking waivers made a decision that as of December thirty first of this year that all smoking waivers even if they are in force will [no] longer be allowed. Bob Nugent of the American Cancer Society said it really takes charismatic leadership to stand up and say we’ve had enough our people are dying there’s things that we can do here locally to make a difference it takes the board of health and a county executive to take a stand and that’s exactly what they did here tonight. The rate of cigarette smokers in Chemung County is higher than the rest of New York state.
A survey says 72-percent of Chemung County residents favor the clean indoor air act.
News - February 23, 2007
Seneca impact on WNY economy positive, study shows
By Michael Beebe
A report commissioned by the Seneca Nation of Indians estimates that the Seneca economy, primarily through gambling operations and tax-free cigarette outlets, brings in $1.2 billion a year in revenue and employs more than 5,000 people in Western New York.
The study by the Taylor Policy Group of Cambridge, Mass., which specializes in economic reports for Indian tribes and their gambling operations, also says the Senecas pay $90 million in wages a year to full-time workers and an additional $30 million to part-time employees.
"This landmark study should open many eyes about the Seneca Nation and our people's multiple contributions to the economic well-being of Western New Yorkers and the whole state," Maurice A. John Sr., the Seneca Nation president, said in a statement.
The report puts a bright face on the controversial ways the Senecas make money - selling tax-free cigarettes at a time when governments are raising taxes to get people to quit because of tobacco's health consequences and inducing people to gamble.
Using the year 2005, the study finds that Seneca purchasing and hiring resulted in a $588 million impact on the region's gross domestic product and a $651 million impact in the state.
But the amount of economic impact on Western New York, a local economics professor said, depends on the amount of new money the Senecas bring to the region.
If people buy gasoline from the Senecas instead of the corner gas station, there is no benefit to the local economy, said George M. Palumbo, chairman of the economic and finance department at Canisius College. "There is no economic impact from swapping one activity for another," he said.
The same holds true, Palumbo said, if someone gambles at a Seneca casino instead of going to a hockey game.
The true economic impact, he said, comes from people coming into the area and spending money.
That is true at the Seneca Allegany Casino, where the study notes that 63 percent of the revenue comes from out of state, but not so true at Seneca Niagara Casino & Hotel, where 86 percent of gambling revenue comes from Western New York.
The Seneca study's author is Jonathan B. Taylor, a research fellow at the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development and a senior policy scholar at the Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy at the University of Arizona.
Taylor estimates that tax-free tobacco sales by the Senecas, both by private and Seneca-owned stores, had jumped from $322 million in 1995 to $620 million in 2005, a 93 percent increase.
None of those sales brought a penny in sales tax to the state, which Taylor says benefits Western New York.
"The dollars that would have gone to pay cigarette and fuel taxes remain in purchasers' household budgets and in the sellers' firms," the report contends. "Since consumers of cigarettes and gasoline typically buy locally, the foregone state sales taxes remain in Western New York rather than being disbursed by legislative appropriation across the state."
The study's logic is twisted, said James S. Calvin, spokesman for the New York State Association of Convenience Stores.
"That's an interesting rationalization for evading taxes," he said. "But the bottom line is that in New York State, evading taxes is illegal. It is illegal for non-Indian consumers to purchase motor fuel and/or cigarettes without paying the applicable taxes."
Besides the state losing the tax revenue on tobacco, he said, the Senecas are also thwarting the state's efforts to get people to stop smoking.
"In New York, cigarettes are taxed at an exorbitant level in order to try to give smokers a financial incentive to quit smoking," he said. "And if those smokers are able to purchase cigarettes without paying the tax, then it defeats the public health policy objective."
Gov. Eliot L. Spitzer has vowed to collect those sales taxes.
Taylor said the study does not include revenue from privately owned Seneca gasoline retail outlets. Known to sell millions of dollars of gas and diesel fuel yearly, they had refused to divulge figures in an earlier Seneca study.
Taylor points out that the Seneca Nation economy, including tobacco sales, tripled in the decade since 1995.
Revenue from Seneca-owned enterprises, which included bingo but not casino gambling in 1995, soared by 782 percent in a decade, from $56 million in 1995 to $495 million.
In addition, the study says, the Senecas' demand for goods and services, mostly in its casinos, yielded an estimated $53 million in New York sales and excise taxes.
That is besides the Seneca Nation's $68 million in slot machine payments to New York State, the study notes, with a quarter of that money coming back to localities.
The Taylor study cites a number of national studies on gambling and concludes that the Seneca casinos, with the slot payments and other effects and the recapturing of some of the business that previously went to Ontario casinos, make them a plus.
"Those net benefits greatly exceed the infrastructure and social costs that the casinos may export to local economies," the report concludes.
Dianne Bennett, a Buffalo attorney who is president of Citizens for a Better Buffalo, which has sued to stop the Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino, disputes the contention.
"To my knowledge," she said, "there is not one economic study that hasn't been commissioned by the gambling industry or supported by gambling interests that says gambling is good for an economy.
"I find it very curious they come out with this pie-in-the-sky study and had to commission it to get it," she said. "This notion of money coming from outside the community is a pipe dream."
The report concludes that because the money generated by the Senecas remains in Western New York, it is helping bridge the substantial income gap - $12,300 to $23,400 - between Senecas and other New Yorkers as recorded in the 2000 census.
Press - February 22, 2007
Atlantic City Smoke Bomb
TRENTON, N.J. - Unhappy with a partial casino smoking ban recently approved by Atlantic City, state senators moved yesterday to completely prohibit smoking in the city's 11 casinos.
Sen. Joseph Vitale said the Senate health committee that he chairs will hold a hearing Monday on imposing a total casino smoking ban.
"Its time to save the lives of the thousands of casino workers who are at risk because of secondhand smoke," said Vitale (D-Middlesex).
The bill would amend a state law passed last year that banned smoking in bars, restaurants and most other public places but exempted casinos.
Press - February 17, 2007
Tobacco black market is smoking hot in California prisons
LANCASTER -- There's no if, and or butt about it: California's ban on tobacco in prisons has produced a burgeoning black market behind bars, where a pack of smokes can fetch up to $125.
Prison officials who already have their hands full keeping drugs and weapons away from inmates now are spending time tracking down tobacco smugglers, some of them guards and other prison employees. Fights over tobacco have broken out -- at one Northern California prison guards had to use pepper spray to break up a brawl among 30 inmates.
The ban was put in place in July 2005 to improve work conditions and cut rising health care costs among inmates but it also has led to an explosive growth of tobacco trafficking. The combination of potentially big profits and relatively light penalties are driving the surge.
"I've never seen anything like it," said Lt. Kenny Calhoun of the Sierra Conservation Center in Northern California, where officials report cigarette prices of $125 a pack.
Darren Cloyd is nearing the end of his 15-year sentence at California State Prison, Los Angeles County, for second-degree armed robbery. Before the ban he remembers paying about $10 for a can with enough rolling tobacco for dozens of cigarettes. Now one contraband cigarette can cost that much.
"The black market is up here," said Cloyd, 37. "Everyone and their momma smoke."
California has the nation's largest prison population -- 172,000 adult inmates. While many states limit tobacco use in prisons, California is among only a few that ban all tobacco products and require workers as well as inmates to abide by the prohibition when inside the walls.
Still, tobacco finds its way into prisons.
Sometimes, family and friends are able to secretly pass it to inmates during visits. Other times, inmates assigned to work crews off prison grounds arrange for cohorts outside the prison to leave stashes of tobacco at prearranged drop sites, then smuggle it behind bars.
A less-risky method: culling small amounts of tobacco from cigarette butts found along roadsides and other work sites.
At California Correctional Center in Lassen County, officials reported more than 60 tobacco offenses among inmate crews at the institution's work camps in December, Associate Warden Matt Mullin said. The same month, cigarettes triggered a brawl between 30 Hispanic and white inmates on a high-security yard. Follow-up interviews with inmates revealed the dispute was over control of tobacco sales.
At the fortress-like Pelican Bay State Prison, a felon sneaked back on to prison grounds hours after being paroled. He was found with a pillowcase of almost 50 ounces of rolling tobacco -- worth thousands of dollars on the black market. The plan was to throw it over the facility's fence.
"It's almost becoming a better market than drugs," said Devan Hawkes, an anti-gang officer at Pelican Bay. "A lot of people are trying to make money."
And that includes prison workers.
Last year, a corrections officer was put on leave from California State Prison, Solano, for smuggling tobacco. The guard made several hundred dollars a week through tobacco, officials say.
At Folsom State Prison, a cook quit last year after he was caught walking onto prison grounds with several plastic bags filled with rolling tobacco in his jacket. He told authorities he was earning more smuggling tobacco -- upwards of $1,000 a week -- than he did in his day job.
Another Folsom cook made about $300 for each tin of rolling tobacco she brought into the prison, receiving payment through money orders sent by an inmate's relatives. She resigned after being caught in October.
"There's quite a bit of money to be made," said Lt. Tim Wamble, a Solano prison spokesman. "In a department this size you're gonna have people who will succumb to the temptation."
Unlike illegal drugs, which bring harsh penalties when smuggled into prison, punishments for inmates caught with tobacco usually range from just a written warning to extra work duties, no matter the quantity involved.
Prison employees can lose their jobs but there's almost no chance of a criminal prosecution. Unlike states such as Texas -- where providing tobacco to prisoners is a felony -- the California statute considers it a misdemeanor and doesn't lay out specific punishments.
Chuck Alexander, executive vice president of the California Correctional Peace Officers Association, said lawmakers should either roll back the prohibition or add stronger penalties.
"It didn't do anything but make (tobacco) a lucrative business," he said.
Press - February 15, 2007
Smoking Foes Push for Tobacco Regulations
WASHINGTON (AP) - February 15, 2007 - Seven years after being rebuffed by the Supreme Court, anti-smoking advocates rejoiced Thursday as lawmakers renewed a push for federal regulation of tobacco, a step they say is needed to deter children from lighting up and to get smokers to quit.
"Congress has the opportunity to take a monumental step and grant the
Food and Drug Administration the meaningful and long-overdue authority
to regulate tobacco, which kills 440,000 people and costs our nation $96.7
billion in health care bills every year," said John Seffrin, chief executive
officer of the American Cancer Society.
A bipartisan group of lawmakers reintroduced legislation Thursday that would give the FDA the same authority over cigarettes and other tobacco products that it already has over countless other consumer products.
"Congress cannot in good conscience allow the federal agency most responsible for protecting the public health to remain powerless to deal with the enormous risks of tobacco, the most deadly of all consumer products," Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., said in introducing the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act with Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Reps. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., and Tom Davis, R-Va.
For decades, the FDA said it lacked authority to regulate tobacco so long as cigarette makers did not claim that smoking provided health benefits. In 1996, it reversed course and cited new evidence that the industry intended its products to feed the nicotine habits of the roughly 45 million Americans who smoke.
Tobacco companies sued, and the case eventually landed in the Supreme Court. In 2000, the court ruled 5-4 that Congress did not authorize the FDA to regulate tobacco.
Previous legislative efforts to give the FDA that authority have faltered. The new bill is fundamentally the same legislation as introduced in the last Congress. Supporters believe it will fare better in the Democratic-controlled House and Senate.
A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said it had the support of the caucus. A spokesman for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said she personally supported it. Messages left for a White House spokesman weren't immediately returned.
The bill would allow the FDA to act to discourage children from starting smoking and encourage adults to quit, in part by reining in advertising, bolstering existing sales restrictions and strengthening warning labels. It also would allow the FDA to order the elimination or reduction of harmful and addictive ingredients in tobacco. The agency couldn't ban nicotine outright, but the bill would give it the power to reduce its levels.
Furthermore, the bill would require tobacco companies to disclose what tobacco products - and their smoke - contain. Secondhand smoke, for example, contains 250 chemicals known to be toxic or carcinogenic, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The FDA had no immediate comment on the proposed legislation. Many tobacco companies have opposed the legislation in the past, with the exception of Philip Morris USA, maker of Marlboro, the nation's top-selling cigarette brand.
"FDA regulation creates a uniform set of federal standards for the manufacture and marketing of all tobacco products," Michael E. Szymanczyk, chairman and chief executive officer of Philip Morris USA, said in a statement.
Experts and other tobacco companies believe some provisions of the bill would favor the most entrenched players in the industry, like Philip Morris, which enjoy strong brand loyalty that could allow them to weather advertising restrictions without losing market share.
"We certainly continue to oppose any bill that conveys an unfair advantage or disadvantage to any manufacturer, which this legislation could. If you eliminate ways to communicate with adult smokers or consumers, that certainly benefits the market leader and makes it difficult, if not impossible, for those who aren't the market leader to compete," said David Howard, a spokesman for R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., the nation's second-largest tobacco company and maker of Camel and other brands.
Life - February 14, 2007
Expanding The Ban On Secondhand Smoke?
By Susan J. Greenberg
Smoking has been banned from airplanes, bars, restaurants and now ... some cars. Suffolk County Legislator Vivian Viloria-Fisher (D-Port-Jefferson) introduced legislation last week that would impose penalties for any adult smoking in a car occupied by minors. The bill has prompted some criticism among other legislators and the New York Civil Liberties Union.
"I have always been concerned about the effects of secondhand smoke on children," said Viloria-Fisher. "It was recently that I heard on National Public Radio that a ban of this type was enacted in Bangor, Maine, and I decided to follow suit."
The legislation, said Viloria-Fisher, has been proposed because "children under the age of 18 have little ability to refuse to be a passenger in a car with an adult who is smoking, and involuntary exposure to environmental tobacco smoke accelerates the risk of lung cancer as the period of time of exposure to secondhand smoke increases."
"Although this is great advice," county Legislator Cameron Alden (R-Islip) said of the bill, "I find it amusing and bizarre that Legislator Viloria-Fisher would attempt to recycle legislation that was introduced by former county Legislator Allan Binder. He put that law in two or three years ago, and the Democrats made fun of it."
According to Alden, Binder's attempt at creating this law was preempted by objections in the Legislature relating to problems of enforcement. "This law has the same problems as the cell phone ban law. It can't be enforced," Alden said. "It is a waste of time and money to legislate this. I'd rather see county funds go toward a long-term public information campaign against smoking around children. It would be much more effective."
"Frankly, I think it's absurd," said Suffolk County Legislator Daniel Losquadro (R-Mount Sinai). "If it does anything, maybe one or two people who perhaps were not paying attention to the dangers of smoking for the last few decades might be deterred if they happen to get caught. People are going to do what they want to do. You can't legislate morality," said Losquadro, who cited his years in the insurance industry as a reference for his position. "In the insurance industry, we had a saying: 'We insure people's stupidity.' People do stupid things and we can't stop them from doing them. A public education campaign would be a better approach."
Losquadro also questioned the law's enforceability, citing the difficulty with the current enforcement of the cell phone ban law. "This [smoking ban] law is a terrible waste of resources, and quite frankly, it is unenforceable. How can an officer even see a child in the back seat, especially if the car has tinted windows or [the child is] in a car seat?"
In addition, Losquadro has some concerns about the potential infringement upon individual freedom and property rights. "People's individual rights are the most guarded things we have in this country. There are circumstances that require legislation for the greater good, such as banning smoking in large public areas, but when you get into personal space and personal property, that gets into areas of constitutional question. You are not dealing here with public space. A car is a private space," he said.
"I don't see this as a constitutional issue," Viloria-Fisher responded. "Our county devotes a great deal of resources to child protective services, and this is just another way to protect children against abuse by their parents." Enforcement of this law, she said, would occur in the same fashion as enforcement of the cell phone ban. "If an officer sees someone smoking with a child in a seat, they could stop them. Same as the cell phone [law]," she said.
"While we all share concern for the health and safety of our children, and appreciate the efforts of Legislator Viloria-Fisher, this bill is an example of over-legislation by good intentions," said Dolores Bilges, executive director of the NYCLU of Suffolk County. "It is better to expand public education on the effects of secondhand smoke on minors, rather than make unnecessary laws regulating what parents can and cannot do around their own children."
Assigned to the Public Safety Committee, the legislation will be the subject of a public hearing at the Legislature's general meeting on March 6. If the public hearing is closed on that day, then the bill will be discussed and voted on by the committee on March 15. If approved by the committee, it will then be voted on by the full Legislature at a general meeting on March 20.
Press - February 12, 2007
Foes of casino smoking vow to keep fighting
By Wayne Parry
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. -- Little girls cried. A cancer patient asked City Council members to carry his coffin. Officials invoked slavery and segregation, and two felt compelled to announce that they hadn't been paid off by the casino industry.
In the end, none of the histrionics at this week's City Council meeting kept Atlantic City from approving a partial smoking ban at the city's 11 casinos. But it did show how emotional the issue has become, and how determined casino workers and clean-air advocates are to continue fighting for a total smoking ban on the gambling floor.
"The push is not over," said Tom Duffy, executive vice president of the American Cancer Society's eastern division. "It can't be. That hearing was so emotional, with people telling their real-life stories that were so hard to listen to. We feel like we have to go to the next level."
The next level, for Duffy and other clean-air advocates, is trying to convince state lawmakers to close the loophole in their smoking ban, enacted last spring, that exempted casinos.
The city gave the casinos until April 15 to start setting up temporary floor-to-ceiling partitions to separate smokers from nonsmokers. The council had been set to make New Jersey the largest gambling destination in the nation with a total casino smoking ban, but backed down after fierce pressure from the casino industry, which feared the loss of 20 percent of its revenue, and as many as 3,400 jobs.
The compromise calls for a smoking ban in 75 percent of casino floor space. The remaining 25 percent is to be walled off, and powerful air filters are to be installed to suck smoke out of the air and take it out of the building.
"Can any of you sleep at night if there's a car in the garage with its motor running?" asked Anthony Serafino, a casino worker from Somers Point.
Another casino worker compared the 75-25 compromise to "being told you can only pee in the shallow end of the pool."
Joseph Corbo, president of the Casino Association of New Jersey, said it is up to individual casinos to determine how to configure their smoking areas.
Harrah's Atlantic City, which operates the Harrah's, Caesars, Bally's and Showboat casinos here, is looking for "a practical solution" that keeps customers happy and employees safe, said Scott Barber, the company's senior vice president and general manager.
Some casino executives have speculated about setting up smoking-only lounges without any gambling tables, while others said they might move certain table games into smoking areas because their highest rollers are smokers.
Before the council approved the compromise on Wednesday, opponents begged them to change course and return to a total smoking ban.
Bria Lamonica, a second-grader from Washington Township in Gloucester County, said her grandmother died from lung cancer.
"I don't want my Poppy to die from other people smoking," she said.
Vince Rennich, a table games supervisor who is suing the Tropicana, alleging 25 years of breathing secondhand smoke caused his lung cancer, asked two council members and Corbo, the casino association president, to be his pall bearers when he dies.
And several council members evoked slavery and racial segregation in calling for a total smoking ban. Councilman G. Bruce Ward, who was one of the sponsors of a total smoking ban, brought a copy of his birth certificate to the meeting, pointing to the line for race, which read "colored."
"That certified that I could be discriminated against in parts of this country," he said. "I see a whole new race of `colored people' -- the people (employees) of the casinos, whose rights have been discriminated against."
[NYC C.L.A.S.H. Note: How disturbing to see Councilman Ward get it so backwards]
Post-Journal - February 9, 2007
Smoking Ban In Cars Under Review
By Sharon Turano
LITTLE VALLEY — Cattaraugus County health officials are looking into whether banning smoking in cars when children are present is ‘‘an appropriate direction’’ for the county.
The matter was brought up during a Wednesday county health board meeting, when legislator and health board member Jon Baker, R-Olean, said he recently read about Rockland County taking action banning smoking when children are in cars. He wondered if Cattaraugus County officials might be interested in similar action.
Barbara Hastings, public health director, said she is researching the matter but is unsure how such a law could be enforced. She said she thinks those in violation would be subject to fines such as with speeding violations. The violation could be erased if smoking cessation classes were taken.
Although she said she is unsure if the research will lead to board action, Mrs. Hastings said she would at least like people to be educated that ear infections and asthma can result from smoking in such close proximity and in an enclosed area with children.
‘‘It’s well worth it from a public health standpoint,’’ she said about the research into the ban.
Mrs. Hastings said she is also aware of education being offered at car seat check inspections and distributions. She said flyers are distributed about dangers of second-hand smoke to children.
Press - February 8, 2007
A.C. votes to allow smoking in 25 percent of casino area
By Wayne Parry
Smokers will still be able to light up in New Jersey's 11 casinos, but they'll have a lot less room for it after the city council in Atlantic City passed a compromise law last night restricting -- but not banning -- smoking on the gambling floor.
The measure bars smoking on 75 percent of a casino floor, and re quires gambling halls to set aside 25 percent of the floor space as smoking areas by April 15. It was passed by a 6-3 vote just before 7:30 p.m., after the council heard more than two hours of comment.
The council had been poised to enact a law that would have made New Jersey the largest gambling jurisdiction in the nation to totally ban smoking, but it backed down under heavy pressure from the ca sino industry, which feared the loss of 20 percent of its revenue and 3,400 jobs.
"I think it really stinks -- it literally stinks," said Rona Bavuso, a cocktail waitress at Harrah's Atlantic City who says she has suffered ill health for years from breathing in second-hand smoke. "Every other restaurant, every other business, every other public place in New Jersey gets to breathe clean air except us."
Casinos were exempted in a smoking ban the Legislature passed last April.
"I think we should have the same rights as everyone else," said Helen Turano, a floor supervisor at the Claridge Casino. "We give up a lot to work here: Every Christmas, every Easter, every Thanksgiving. We shouldn't have to give up our health, too."
Joseph Corbo Jr., president of the Casino Association of New Jersey, said the compromise is one the casinos can live with because it im poses less of an economic hardship on them.
He said it is now up to individual casinos to determine "how each can best comply with the ordi nance in a manner that allows our casinos to continue to offer gaming opportunities to our many customers who smoke that also addresses the concerns of our valued employees."
One of the most emotional pleas came from a second-grader, Bria Lamonica of Turnersville, who told the council her grandmother died from lung cancer related to smoking.
"I don't want my Poppy to die from other people smoking," she said. "He visits the casinos fre quently."
Anti-smoking groups vowed to continue their fight to rid casinos of smoke.
"This is not an employee protection act," said Regina Carlson, executive director of the New Jersey Group Against Smoking Pollution (GASP). "Frankly, right now, it looks like a casino protection act."
Her group was among a coalition of clean-air advocates that ran a series of radio commercials over the weekend urging people to call the council and demand that it re turn to its original proposal to eliminate all smoking on casino floors.
The ads featured Vince Ren nich, a 25-year table games supervi sor at the Tropicana Casino and Resort who blames the lung cancer he developed in 2005 on secondhand smoke from casino patrons.
"They're going to do what they're going to do, but we're not going to stop, either," he said.
The casino industry indicated it would accept the compromise. However, the switch left many ca sino workers and anti-smoking groups feeling betrayed.
"It is unconscionable for the council members to have pulled the rug out from under these hard- working casino employees," said Tom Duffy, executive vice president of the American Cancer Society's Eastern Division.
Proponents say the smoking areas would be walled off from floor to ceiling and equipped with powerful ventilation systems to suck smoke out of the air and carry it out of the building.
But GASP released a survey this week of gambling halls in Rhode Island that employ a similar partition system, casting doubt on its effectiveness. The study found that restricting smoking to 25 percent of the gambling floor made conditions there much worse, while not significantly improving the air in nonsmoking areas.
Companies with stakes in the Atlantic City casino smoking ban include Columbia Entertainment, Harrah's Entertainment, Boyd Gaming Corp., MGM Mirage and Trump Entertainment Resorts.
- February 6, 2007
Smoke ban bill reborn
By Chau Lam
A bill banning people from smoking in vehicles while traveling with a child under 18 years old was introduced Tuesday by a Suffolk lawmaker, but the New York Civil Liberties Union called it intrusive.
Deputy Presiding Officer Vivian Viloria-Fisher (D-Setauket) dusted off a 4-year-old bill -- proposed by former Republican Legis. Allan Binder that was defeated in 2003 -- because she said she wants to protect children's health.
"It's a problem if there are any children in cars with their parents who are smoking," Viloria-Fisher said.
Legis. Cameron Alden (R-Islip) called the proposal a wonderful piece of advice to tell parents and adults not to smoke in the company of children. But he said it's totally unnecessary to pass a law to compel them to do so.
"The Democrats beat the crap out of Binder when he proposed it," Alden said Tuesday. "I find it a little amusing that Vivian is turning to an old Binder resolution."
If the Democratic-controlled legislature passes the bill, violators would be fined up to $150 per incident when they're caught lighting up cigars, pipes or cigarettes while driving with a minor in cars, passenger vans, pickup trucks or commercial vehicles.
If the vehicle's windows are rolled down, it's still a violation.
"It seems like an outrageous and unenforceable proposal. What are you going to do, check birth certificates when you pull people over?" said Tara Keenan-Thomson, executive director of the Nassau County Chapter of the New York Civil Liberties Union. "What's next, are they going to knock on your doors to ask if you're smoking in your own homes around minors?"
In the last year, lawmakers in Arkansas, Louisiana and the city of Bangor, Maine, have passed similar laws barring adults from smoking in cars when children are present.
Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy is reserving judgment until after members of the public weigh in on the matter.
WINS - February 4, 2007
Internet Cigarette Buyers Bill: $10,426
BRICK, N.J. -- New Jersey residents who buy their cigarettes over the Internet are experiencing a big reason to quit: huge sales tax bills.
The state is cracking down on residents who buy their smokes online in order to avoid state sales tax, a development that has caught many Garden State smokers by surprise.
Brick resident Craig Mathews, 57, quit smoking last April, but not before racking up a $10,426.11 sales tax bill for buying cigarettes over the Web for years.
Another Brick resident, Tim Nolan, 52, received a sales tax bill from the state for $4,115.28 for the Pall Mall cigarettes he purchased online from July 2003 to March 2005.
Both men said they bought the cigarettes over the Internet in order to save money and didn't know that they had to pay sales tax to the state of New Jersey.
``We should have gotten a warning,'' Nolan told the Asbury Park Press for Sunday's newspapers. ``We were ignorant of the law.''
A professor at Rutgers School of Law, Mark Weiner, said under a federal law called the Jenkins Act, tobacco companies who sell their products to out-of-state consumers must report sales information to the state where the consumer lives.
According to Tom Vincz, a spokesman for the state Treasury Department, the state collects about $4 million a year from sales tax on out-of-state cigarettes.
Vincz said sometimes cigarette sellers will voluntarily offer the information to states, but often the states must demand it from the Internet sites.
10 Now - January 30, 2007
Cigarette tax rising to cover healthcare costs
By Bill Carey
The lawmakers say it's a simple case of fairness. Onondaga County spends about $35,000 a day in Medicaid funds to care for those suffering from illnesses caused by smoking. And those costs are covered by all taxpayers.
Instead, they say its time for the state to boost the cigarette tax by as much as 50 cents a pack to pay those bills.
“This is a way of adding the tax on to the cigarettes right from the get-go, to be put into a fund to cover the costs of health care for the people who choose that lifestyle,” Onondaga County Legislator Edward Ryan said. “And it would take the onus off the homeowner for subsidizing that lifestyle.”
The ways and means committee voted overwhelmingly in favor of the measure. But the vote was not unanimous.
“This attaches to a much broader issue,” Bernard Kraft, Onondaga County Legislator, said. “The issue of how much regulation we're going to have of people's personal lives.”
By saying only the people responsible for particular health issues should pick up Medicaid costs for care, Kraft says the county is moving into dangerous territory.
Kraft stated, “You know, are we going to regulate what people eat? So they don't become obese. Are we going to regulate what sports people participate in? So they don't get injured playing sports.”
The lawmaker who sponsored the bill says the argument misses the point. That when each homeowner finds themselves paying between $30 and $80 a year just to cover health care for smokers, the cost is unfair.
“I don't care if you smoke. I happen to smoke once in a while. But, you have to be responsible for your own actions and not have people subsidize the consequences of your actions and that is pretty much what this is about,” Ryan added.
The full legislature is expected to approve the measure.
Wall Street Journal - January 25, 2007
Capitol Hill Power Shift Could Aid Philip Morris
By Vanessa O'Connell and Brody Mullins
January 25, 2007; Page B1
In many ways, the new Democratic Congress looks like big trouble for big tobacco.
Representative Henry A. Waxman (D., Calif.) -- long the industry's chief Capitol Hill scourge -- just became an important committee chairman. Loyal Republican allies of big tobacco are now in the minority, including John Boehner (R., Ohio), a smoker who in 1995 famously handed out checks from tobacco lobbyists on the House floor (he later apologized), and Roy Blunt (R., Mo.), whose wife is a lobbyist for Altria Group Inc., the parent of Philip Morris USA. (Mr. Blunt's office notes that his wife doesn't lobby the House.) Because of the changes on Capitol Hill, the public could be seeing all sorts of ideas floated that had sunk quickly before -- from a federal excise tax increase to photos of diseased lungs on cigarette packs.
From the point of view of the nation's largest cigarette maker, Philip Morris, the shift in power could be a blessing in disguise. That's because it could help ease the way for legislation to give the Food and Drug Administration new powers to control how cigarettes are made and marketed. That, ironically, could help Philip Morris maintain its current market domination.
The FDA doesn't regulate cigarettes. Under former commissioner David Kessler it tried years ago to claim jurisdiction over cigarettes as drug delivery devices -- the drug being nicotine -- but that effort was challenged by tobacco companies and rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Most tobacco companies are opposed to FDA regulation of cigarettes, which, among other things, would likely ban the use of descriptors such as "light" and "mild" and require big new warnings to cover at least 30% of cigarette packs.
Philip Morris, however, has embraced the idea that the FDA should have broad powers over tobacco. "Legislation that reduces the serious harm caused by smoking would be a very good development, and it is not about giving a competitive advantage to any one company," says Steven C. Parrish, senior vice president of corporate affairs for Altria.
The company's rivals contend that new restrictions would hurt them more because their brands are much less known than the famous Philip Morris Marlboro brand. With marketing potentially dramatically curtailed by FDA regulation, they would have fewer ways to promote themselves. The result, they say, would be that Marlboro would keep its market share. Philip Morris USA's share of the retail cigarette market was 50.4% as of the third quarter of 2006. Competitors such as Reynolds American Inc.'s R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., which markets Camel and Kool cigarettes, gripe that FDA regulation is the "Marlboro Monopoly Act."
Oversight by the FDA also would help Philip Morris develop a legal way to market its cigarette products that are meant to be less hazardous, such as Marlboro Ultra Smooth, which already have been selling in limited test markets but without any explicit health-related marketing claims. A bill in the works includes sections that define reduced-risk products, laying out how they can be marketed.
In coming weeks, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D., Mass), chairman of the Senate Health Committee, and Rep. Waxman, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, are expected to formally introduce FDA tobacco legislation. Sen. Kennedy's plan is for hearings in February and a vote in his committee on the bill in March. Phillip Morris USA Chief Executive Officer Michael Szymanczyk, and other cigarette company chiefs, are expected to be asked to testify before Congress.
They could face tough questions about some new findings from researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health alleging that tobacco companies increased the level of addictive nicotine in their cigarettes. Philip Morris disputes the findings.
Another hot topic might be whether legislation should give the FDA power to demand that all cigarette makers reduce nicotine levels all the way to zero. In the past, Philip Morris has argued against that on the grounds that doing so would make cigarettes unacceptable to consumers.
Traditional antiregulatory sentiment on the part of the Republicans has proved an obstacle to passage of FDA regulation. The Democrats' win in November means that legislation to regulate tobacco has more votes than in the last session of Congress. But with a presidential race gearing up, and the congressional clock always racing, many bills may fall by the wayside as priorities shift.
Rep. Waxman has been particularly tough on cigarette makers. In 1994, he called cigarettes "the single most dangerous consumer product ever sold," and he was chairman of the hearings that exposed major tobacco executives over the health risks of smoking. Seven executives declared, under oath, that nicotine isn't addictive. The companies have reversed course. Reynolds suggests smokers rely on the conclusions of the U.S. Surgeon General, and other public-health and medical officials, while Philip Morris USA agrees cigarettes are harmful.
Now Rep. Waxman will be in the position of arguably aiding Philip Morris by introducing the FDA bill on the House side. His spokeswoman said yesterday that the bill could come soon and would likely give the FDA the power to regulate nicotine but not eliminate it.
"I don't think there's been any love between Philip Morris and Henry Waxman," said Rep. Waxman in an interview yesterday, noting that he is aware that some employees of the cigarette maker used to mock him as "Hollywood Henry" -- a likely reference to the fact that he invited movie stars and celebrities to his hearings. "I don't care about Philip Morris's interests," he added. "Cigarettes -- as dangerous as they are -- are the only consumer products that are completely unregulated by the federal government."
Among the antitobacco measures Democrats might take would be increasing the federal cigarette excise tax, now 39 cents. The last increase was legislated in 1997.
Antitobacco advocates also hope there might be political opportunities for the U.S. to finally ratify the terms of a World Health Organization treaty known as the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. The U.S. signed it in 2004, and about 143 other countries have ratified it, including the United Kingdom, Japan, and Canada. The treaty calls for a ban of terms such as "light" and "low tar" and would require text or pictorial warnings covering at least 30% of each tobacco pack.
In Canada and some other countries using pictures, the images include a diseased lung and a drooping cigarette to show tobacco's ill effects on male sexuality. The odds of passage this year are uncertain because the State Department has yet to introduce the legislation that would make the treaty's terms legally binding.
"We agree with most of the treaty's core principles, and we want to engage with the rest of the world to help bring them up to our standards," White House deputy press secretary Tony Fratto said Wednesday. "The treaty requires statutory changes that we would have to make before ratifying it, and also raises some constitutional concerns -- particularly with respect to the First Amendment. I can't say at this time how quickly those issues would be resolved."
Another likely move would be to pass legislation that would limit Internet sales of tobacco products. In the last Congress, there was debate about providing the states additional authority to ensure that state taxes were paid. The proposal is likely to surface again this year, says Wendy K.D. Selig, lobbyist for the American Cancer Society in Washington.
- January 24, 2007
Smokers Want Waivers Extended
Posted By Jericka Duncan
Elmira - Jerry Lennox is a proud veteran and proud smoker. He's also the commander at the Rex Field Post 901 VFW in Elmira. "If you have a veteran that fought for his country and he wants to smoke I'm not going to tell him he can’t smoke, I firmly believe that,” said Lennox.
In 2003, the Clean Indoor Air Act stopped smokers from lighting up inside News York State bars and restaurant. However, some businesses could get waivers if they could prove the smoking ban hurt their business.
The Rex Field Post received one of 15 waivers in Chemung County and added a smoke lounge for people like Lennox. But according to the American Lung Cancer Society, lung cancer rates are 30% higher than the upstate average. Now county leaders want to lower those rates. They hope to lower those rates by phasing out smoking waivers.
Most waivers don't expire until next year. If this plan is approved, health officials say it would be at least another two years before all 15 businesses that currently have smoking waivers are without them.
Star-Ledger - January 19, 2007
Bill would ban smoking in cars carrying children
(NJ) A bill to prohibit smoking in a car in which a minor is present will be introduced in the state Senate next week.
Sponsored by Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D-Union), the proposed bill would amend the current statute regarding child endangerment to prescribe criminal penalties for smoking in a motor vehicle in which there is a child, defined in the legislation as anyone under the age of 16.
"We know for a fact that second-hand smoke contributes to heart disease, respiratory illness, and cancer, and responsible parents should try to limit their kids' exposure, even if they themselves aren't ready to quit," Lesniak said.
Under the bill, a person would be charged with a petty disorderly persons offense, punishable by a jail term of up to 30 days, or a fine of up to $500, or both, for a first offense. A person would be charged with a disorderly persons offense for subsequent offenses, with penalties including a jail term of up to six months, a fine of up to $1,000, or both.
Lesniak said he got the idea for the bill while driving recently. He noticed a car in the next lane with a mother and two children, with the windows rolled up and a thick cloud of smoke in the car.
"When we were stopped at a red light, I could actually see how thick the smoke was in this car, and how dangerous it was for these kids to be in that environment," he said.
The bill will be introduced dur ing the Senate session Monday.
Journal News - January 18, 2007
Rockland proposal would ban smoking in cars with kids
By Jane Lerner
RAMAPO - Add automobiles to the growing list of places where smokers might soon be banned from lighting up.
The Rockland County Board of Health adopted a resolution yesterday recommending that the county "study the possibility of prohibiting smoking in automobiles when children under the age of 18 are present."
"It makes a great deal of sense to prohibit smoking in cars," said Dr. Jeffrey Oppenheim, a neurosurgeon and the member of the board who proposed the ban. "Children don't have a choice when someone lights a cigarette in a car with closed windows."
The county's health commissioner, Dr. Joan Facelle, said she was in favor of the idea.
"The time is right to address this," said Facelle, a pediatrician.
Facelle said she would propose the idea to County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef. He was unavailable for comment yesterday, but a spokeswoman said it would be reviewed for possible referral to the county Legislature.
Legislature Chairwoman Harriet Cornell, D-West Nyack, said she would be willing to look into the proposal.
"Smoke in a small, closed environment like an automobile has the potential of damaging the health of children or young people, so it's definitely something we ought to look at very closely," she said.
Mount Ivy resident John Rivera was smoking a cigarette while waiting for a bus outside the Department of Health building yesterday. He said that even though he smokes, he supports such a ban.
"It's a terrible thing to smoke in the car with your kids in it," he said. "You really shouldn't do it."
Dwayne Jones of Spring Valley, who was also smoking while waiting for a bus, was not so sure the measure was a good idea.
"Why should someone tell me what I can do in my own car?" he said.
Laws prohibiting smoking in automobiles are becoming increasingly common, said Matt Barry, director of policy research for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, a Washington, D.C., advocacy group.
"It's a fairly recent phenomenon," he said.
Louisiana, Arkansas, Puerto Rico and Bangor, Maine, have recently enacted laws banning smoking in cars when children are present, Barry said.
"The evidence that secondhand smoke is harmful to children is so overwhelming that it trumps all other arguments," he said.
But Jonathan Pinard, New York state coordinator for The Smoker's Club, a grass-roots group that advocates smokers' rights, said there is no need for such laws.
"It's one of those things that is not necessary to legislate," said Pinard, a banker who lives in Hauppauge, Long Island. "Very few people smoke in cars with closed windows with their kids."
Oppenheim said it would be up to the county to decide if such a ban should be part of Rockland's sanitary code or if a separate law should be enacted.
The neurosurgeon said he didn't think it would be a difficult measure to enforce.
"The police stop you if you're not wearing a seat belt," he said. "Why shouldn't they stop you if you are smoking in a car with a child in it?"
Observer-Dispatch - January 15, 2007
Oneida Co. may raise smoking age to 19
Proposed switch draws support and criticism
By Elizabeth Cooper
Oneida County's decision to examine raising its legal smoking age to 19 has received positive feedback from anti-smoking advocates and members of the community, but there already are a couple of sticking points.
A similar proposed law in Onondaga County was vetoed by Executive Nicholas Pirro on Friday because it did not exempt members of the military. Finding ways of funding the program also was a problem.
Discussions about increasing the legal age at which an Oneida County resident can purchase tobacco products started with a letter to Board of Legislators Chairman Gerald Fiorini, R-Rome, from three county legislators: Richard Flisnik, R-Marcy, Ed Welsh, R-Utica, and Brian Miller, R-New Hartford.
"Every day, children and teenagers have access to cigarettes and other tobacco products, putting them at risk for future health problems," the letter reads. "Exploring avenues to minimize their access to tobacco, and research and encourage enforcement measures that would include confiscation of tobacco products from underage children could have a positive effect."
Audette Doolen of Utica said she approves of laws that stop young people from smoking because she's seen several of her older relatives die before their time from smoking-related illnesses.
"My older son smokes," she said. "I tried to get him to quit, but he can't."
Fiorini said he will convene a committee to investigate the possibility of raising the age for tobacco purchases.
Kari Puleo of Smoke Free Mohawk Valley praised the idea of increasing the smoking age. By raising the age to 19, it will make it more difficult for high school students to get cigarettes, since most 19-year-olds have graduated, while many turn 18 during their senior year.
Those 18-year-olds can legally buy cigarettes and then give them to their younger friends, she said.
"I would urge Oneida County to follow through with this plan," she said. "Anything that even incrementally works helps."
She said it is her personal belief that members of the military should not be exempt, because making exceptions could weaken the law.
Suffolk and Nassau counties have raised the age to purchase tobacco products to 19.
Suffolk County Director of Health Education Lori Benincasa said her county made that move about two years ago, and it's going well.
"We definitely think it's increased compliance, and it sends a message that children shouldn't smoke," she said. "It really does send a powerful message if we are increasing the number of people that don't have access."
Suffolk does not have a provision exempting members of the armed services, Benincasa said.
As for funding the new law, the state's Adolescent Tobacco Use Prevention Act funds sting operations in which a 17-year-old decoys attempt to purchase cigarettes.
Though the statewide smoking age is 18, Health Department spokesman Jeff Hammond said counties that increase that age to 19 would not see an impact on that funding stream.
Suffolk and Onondaga county officials said they were not yet sure how those funds would relate to enforcing the higher age limit.
Journal News - January 13, 2007
Hospitals ban smoking everywhere on their property
By Jane Lerner
As he walked to the main entrance of Good Samartian Hospital to visit a friend this week, Scott Prastien had flowers in one hand and a cigarette in the other.
Before he walked through the door, he snuffed out the cigarette and tossed it in a garbage can.
Soon those visiting local hospitals, as well as hospital employees, won't be able to do that.
Good Samaritan and an increasing number of hospitals throughout the Lower Hudson Valley are banning smoking everywhere on their grounds, including parking lots, sidewalks and parked cars.
"Smoking on our property is not acceptable," said Walter Dusseldorp, safety officer for Nyack Hospital, which will ban smoking anywhere on its property as of Monday. "It's not good for our patients to have to walk through a cloud of smoke to get into our hospital. It's just not right."
Most hospitals banned indoor smoking years ago - long before a 2003 state law that banned indoor smoking in just about all public places.
Many hospitals continued to allow people to smoke outdoors, leading to groups of employees and visitors huddled around entrances with cigarettes.
Now, even those outdoor smoking areas are going the way of the hospital cigarette vending machine.
Sound Shore Medical Center in New Rochelle plans to remove a designated smoking area near its main entrance as soon as it institutes a total smoking ban, said John Mamangakis, vice president for operations.
Good Samaritan will remove a gazebo in the rear of the property near the emergency room, where staff members are permitted to smoke.
Other health care institutions say they will keep outdoor smoking areas for their employees' convenience.
Hudson Valley Hospital Center in Cortlandt has been smoke-free indoors since the late 1980s, but provides a smoking area out back for employees.
John Federspiel, the hospital president, said there were no plans to remove it.
"Health care is such a stressful occupation and your ability to recruit and retain staff is so difficult," Federspiel said. "And we try to provide an atmosphere for the employees to work in that is comfortable."
Many hospitals also are eliminating the last places indoors where patients were allowed to smoke - designated rooms in detox or drug rehabilitation units.
Putnam Hospital Center, which is considering a campuswide smoking ban, made its substance abuse unit smoke-free last year by eliminating a lounge where cigarettes were allowed, spokeswoman Marjorie Schneider said. Nyack and Good Samaritan hospitals have done the same.
Advocates for people battling drug and alcohol use said they supported the new policy.
"Addiction is addiction is addiction," said Yaniyah Pearson, executive director of the Rockland Council on Alcohol and Other Drug Dependency. "I think that the drug treatment field finally realized that we couldn't talk about treating people for addiction without dealing with nicotine, which is the most addictive drug there is."
Hospitals that are instituting all-campus smoking bans say they are giving their employees plenty of notice and offering support.
"As an ex-smoker, I know what a difficult thing it is to quit," said Michael Prus, director of respiratory therapy at Good Samaritan. "We want to be compassionate about this."
Both Nyack and Good Samaritan hospitals are now hosting an eight-week smoking cessation class given by the Rockland Health Department.
Hospital workers said they had mixed feeling about the total ban.
"I'm an RN, so of course I know that smoking is bad for you," said Donna Heaney, a Good Samaritan nurse, as she lit a cigarette in the hospital's outdoor smoking area one cold day this week. "And I don't think that there is a smoker out there - myself included - who doesn't want to quit."
The hospital's total ban, which will take effect July 4, might prompt her to try again to kick the habit, she said.
"I can already go eight hours without a cigarette," she said. "Maybe I'll find that I can last the rest of the day, too."
Few hospital workers have complained to their union about no-smoking policies, said Mike Rifkin, executive director of 1199 SEIU, the state's largest health care workers union, which represents employees at hospitals throughout the Lower Hudson Valley, including Nyack, Good Samaritan and Sound Shore.
"Smoking kills you," said Rifkin, a former smoker. "Not only that, but it raises the cost of health care for everyone."
Smoking bans also will affect people like Scott Prastien, who are just visiting hospitals.
"You're under a lot of stress when someone you know is sick and in the hospital," said Prastien, who lives in Suffern. "That's not the best time to try to quit smoking."
While he agrees with the hospital's no-smoking policy indoors, he thinks Good Samaritan should allow people to smoke outdoors.
"I don't see why they can't have a designated area near the parking lot," he said.
Hillburn resident Marlena Garey was visiting her 94-year-old mother who was a patient at Good Samaritan Hospital this week.
Garey said she stopped smoking several years ago and went 16 months without a cigarette. But the stress of caring for her elderly mother prompted her to start again, she said as she lit a cigarette outside the hospital.
But maybe not for long.
She saw a flier at Good Samaritan announcing its smoking ban and offering help to people who want to stop smoking.
Garey signed up for the Health Department's smoking cessation class and plans to go to the first session next week.
"There are so few places where you're allowed to smoke anymore," she said. "You almost have no choice but to quit."
Press - January 11, 2007
SUNY board approves no smoking policy for dorms
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) _ The State University of New York's trustees on Thursday adopted a policy to ban smoking from all dormitories as of July 1.
The policy will affect the remaining 9 percent of SUNY residence hall beds where smoking is currently permitted, primarily at Stony Brook, Morrisville and Buffalo State, according to a statement issued by the university board.
Chancellor John Ryan announced in June that the system-wide ban would be implemented.
"SUNY currently has approximately 72,000 beds in residence halls and smoking is already prohibited in nearly all, or 91 percent, of them," Ryan said Thursday. "Although we are talking about a small percentage of beds that remain, this policy takes a number of additional measures to ensure that our students, both current and incoming, are educated on the dangers of smoking and secondhand smoke, and also protects the health of SUNY employees."
In addition to banning smoking in all dorms, the new SUNY policy also prohibits smoking in SUNY-owned vehicles and directs each campus president to set "an appropriate minimum distance from residence halls and apartment buildings, particularly entrances to such buildings, within which smoking is prohibited."
The State University of New York has 64 campuses and more than 418,000
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